Thursday, June 30, 2011

Big Star- Live (1992) / Nobody Can Dance (1999) MP3 & FLAC

"I'll buy you breakfast; they'll think you're my wife. Come up to my hotel room,
save my life."

Live is the official release of a late-1973 in-studio performance by Big Star (at this point a trio) recorded by WILR-New York, which had been circulating for years, in one form or another, as a bootleg. The circumstances for the recording were the promotion of a two-day residence at the historic Manhattan nightclub Max's Kansas City in support of their newly released, Radio City, which the band hoped would avoid the tragic commercial fate of their brilliant debut, #1 Record  (unfortunately, it didn't). Alex Chilton's frustration and tentativeness regarding the band's commercial prospects at the time are palpable during the brief interview that sits (quite awkwardly) in the middle of the WILR show. For example, in response to DJ Jim Cameron's somewhat generic praise of the new album, Chilton, a master of sarcasm, responds, "Yeah, that's, uh, nice. I hope it sells." However, by late 1973-early 1974, the band was either in a state of transition or deterioration, as both Chris Bell (the band's originator) and original bassist Andy Hummel had quit, the latter, having had enough of the music industry (and working with Chilton), decided to head back to college to pursue a career in engineering. At the time of the WLIR show, Hummel's replacement, John Lightman, had only been with the band for three weeks. Despite the incipient turmoil and Chilton's growing sense of diminishing artistic returns, the band manages to turn in a typically lovely, shambolic and world-weary performance on Live, including a fantastic acoustic cover of Loudon Wainwright III's "Motel Blues," which also appears as a studio-demo on the Keep an Eye on the Sky  box set. It's easy to understand what attracted Chilton to this song as it is a razor-sharp depiction of the loneliness and waywardness of life on the road. His fragile, defeated vocals lend the song a tragic character that arguably bests Wainwright's slightly more ironic version. On the other end of the sonic spectrum is a sexy, grungy version of the rave-up "Mod Lang," which sounds something like T. Rex on Quaaludes while playing a gig underwater. Also noteworthy is a fine rendition of "You Get What You Deserve," featuring some impressive guitar-playing by Chilton, mixing his trademark grimy, jazzy chime with some down & dirty lead work. Big Star's live recordings never seemed to capture the band in optimal conditions; nevertheless, Live finds the band in ragged but committed form, energized by the then-recent release of their second masterpiece. This is well-worth hearing.

T. Rex- "Jeepster" Video (1971)

Nice version of T. Rex's glam classic with some great conga work from Mr. Finn

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #12: Talk Talk- Laughing Stock (1991) MP3 & FLAC

"Stair by idle stair, faith one path and the second in fear."

Addressing Talk Talk's fearless approach to conceiving and recording their masterful penultimate album, Spirit of Eden, Creation Records founder Alan McGee once said that the band "was given the keys to the kingdom and return[ed] with art." What he was referring to is the unlimited budget and virtually open recording schedule Talk Talk was awarded by EMI on the heels of the commercial success of The Colour of Spring. The record company's expectation was an even more commercially viable follow-up, but what they received instead was a largely improvised piece of Jazz-inflected Art-Rock from a band that now made no pretense to having an interest in commercial success. The fall-out included a legal dispute over Talk Talk's desire to sign with another label, and after the dust had settled, the band signed with Polydor, specifically the small but venerated Jazz-imprint, Verve. In many ways, Verve made sense, not only because this allowed Talk Talk complete artistic control over the recording of Laughing Stock, but also because their recording process employed many of the same techniques that were used in recording some of the great Jazz albums of the fifties and sixties. The band, now minus bassist Paul Webb, spent seven months cloistered in Wessex studios in London in order to filter out all worldly concerns and distractions. As Mark Hollis has recounted about the approach to the sessions, "What we did on this album is what we call rehearsed spontaneity. There are no demos, no plans at all. I go in and put down a basic outline of something using my Country Gent guitar and then we fly other stuff in to build up the dynamics, the space. That's the key- space -it helps to build and resolve the tensions. Silence is the most powerful instrument I have." This emphasis on silence and space is clearly evident throughout Laughing Stock, for example, on "Taphead," a song very reminiscent of experimental Jazz recordings of the sixties, although this is more the case in terms of its arrangement than of its sound. Lushly minimalist (if such a description makes any sense), "Taphead" opens with the repetition of a desolate and slightly bent bass-note guitar melody sounding as if emanating hollowly from the other side of the studio until Hollis' nearly indecipherable vocals puncture the aural detachment with a sense of emotional immediacy. As the song progresses, the bleak mood never lets up, though additional sound textures swirl through the arrangement as if blown in by a cold wind. Following on the heels of this somber beauty is the even more stunning "New Grass," which functions as the closest thing there is to an emotional centerpiece on this insistently (and brilliantly) unstructured album.  In contrast to "Taphead," it favors a more hopeful, almost ethereal, feel with Hollis' vocals pushed down in the mix to the point where they simply share space with the various instruments rather than standing out front. "New Grass" also features some beautifully spacey guitar-work from Hollis and the haunting sound of a church organ, both of which lend the song its almost religious atmosphere. A true masterwork in an album full of masterworks top to bottom. Laughing Stock was fated to be Talk Talk's swan-song and a fitting one at that given that it feels like a sort of culmination of the long trek the band had made from major-label fodder to brilliant musical iconoclasts. However, for Hollis, it was always simply about attaining a purity of approach: "Really, it's just going back to one of a couple of things- either the jazz ethic or y'know, an album like Tago Mago  by Can where the drummer locked-in and off he went and people reacted at certain points along the way. It's arranged spontaneity- that's exactly what it is."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

J0y Divisi0n- Unkn0wn Ple@sures (1979) Collector's Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"Directionless so plain to see, a loaded gun won't set you free, so you say."

Joy Division is often touted as the point of origin for Post-Punk. While this may not be entirely accurate (there were many points of origin for this movement), there is no denying that Ian Curtis' emotionally harrowing lyrics and tense baritone croon effectively turned Punk's aesthetic of rage and aggression inward, deconstructing his own emotional, physical, and psychological struggles in a candid way completely unprecedented within the context of the Punk movement. However, Joy Division's live sound, especially at the time they recorded their debut, Unknown Pleasures, still clearly bore the imprint of their Punk roots, though Peter Hook's melodic bass-work, which would become a defining element of the band's mature sound, was already in evidence on a few songs. By all accounts, the groundbreaking sound of Joy Division's debut (which some members of the band were not entirely enamored with at the time of the album's release) owes much to the brilliant production work of Martin Hannett, who saw the sonic possibilities inherent in the band's sound and decided to push them beyond the aesthetic confines of Punk austerity. Hannett did nothing to temper the band's dark abrasiveness; however, he lent the album a sense of eerie spaciousness by insisting that every instrument be recorded in isolation to enhance the definition of the individual elements comprising the songs, an approach quite antithetical to what was generally found on Punk recordings of the time. Exemplary of this unprecedented sound is the brilliant "shadowplay," which fades in with Hook's bass setting up the basic melody in concert with Stephen Morris' shimmering cymbals. These serve to increase the song's tension until Bernard Sumner crashes in with a jagged guitar chord and Ian Curtis's bellowing vocals issue-forth sounding as if emanating from regions unknown, both of which threaten to push the song into more familiar Punk territory, except that the lyrics and sonic depth of the mix refuse to let it acquiesce to predictability. Even more stunning is "She's Lost Control," Curtis' chilling account of the physical and psychological struggles of a fellow epileptic. With its strange almost industrial disco beat and Hook's iconic descending bass melody, the song more than lives up to the album's title, as Joy Division have clearly moved into entirely new sonic territory here, a sound that both set the bar for the initial wave of Post-Punk bands and presaged the direction the band would take (as New Order) after Curtis' tragic suicide. Simply put, Unknown Pleasures is one of the most important and original albums of the rock era.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love and Rockets- Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven (1985) MP3 & FLAC -For Ana-

"Live the life you love. Use a god you trust. And don't take it all too seriously."

The demise of Bauhaus was an unceremonious affair: on the eve of releasing Burning from the Inside, the band was set to play two shows at the late great Hammersmith Palais in London. Taking a cue from one of their main influences, Ziggy-era Bowie, they decided to cryptically reveal their split at the end of the second show, with David J announcing, "rest in peace" as the band left the stage after a lengthy encore. Reportedly, the split was the result of typical rock-band maladies such as creative differences and jealousies; however, what likely happened was that during the recording sessions for Bauhaus' last album, which took place largely without Peter Murphy due to an illness, Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins figured out that life without their temperamental lead singer offered intriguing creative possibilities. After working on various independent projects such as Ash and Haskins' Tones on Tail and David J's Jazz Butcher and The Sinister Ducks, David J organized a Bauhaus reunion rehearsal that Murphy agreed to but never bothered to show up for; nevertheless, the rehearsal sans Murphy went well, and out of this was born Love and Rockets (the name having been taken from a comic book serial), which largely left behind the overt Gothic affectations of Bauhaus and instead explored a more accessible, psychedelia-tinged version of Post-Punk. While their second LP, Express, is often considered their best work, their debut, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven is arguably just as strong if not better, as it is more focused and takes more creative chances than its successor. While Love and Rockets manage to retain many of the dark themes they explored in Bauhaus, their sound on their debut LP is much more lush and pop-oriented while adding psychedelic overtones to the mix. The non-LP single (which was quickly added to subsequent versions of the album) "Ball of Confusion" is a telling example of this creative rebirth. While not as brilliant as the original Temptations version, Love and Rockets manage to simultaneously update the song as a psych-goth rocker but also re-contextualize the song as a club anthem. Simply a masterstroke. The album itself is full of moody tracks, such as "A Private Future" whose lush structure of descending guitar arpeggios is quite reminiscent of Bauhaus' swan-song, but the addition of a few straightforward pop elements early in the song creates a greater sense of tension when things take a darker turn at the mid-way point. One of the truly transcendent moments on the album is "The Dog-End of a Day Gone By," which is a stunning neo-psych anthem that makes it hardly seem possible that it could emanate from essentially the same band responsible for "Bela Lugosi's Dead."  While Love and Rockets would go on to unforeseen commercial heights later in the eighties, the artistic euphoria of exploring something new is palpable on Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, making it perhaps the purest distillation of the band's unique sound.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love and Rockets- "Ball of Confusion" Video (1985)

Psych-Goth: what a great idea!

Cindytalk- Wappinschaw (1994) MP3 & FLAC -For Ol' Foggy-

"It is becoming more difficult day by day to sustain this level of magic."

On Camouflage Heart, Cindytalk's 1984 debut, Gordon Sharp created a hopelessly dark, yet starkly beautiful, proto-industrial descent into psychic despair that made so-called "Goth" albums of the time sound like little more than cartoonish attempts to paint facile forms of despair in shades of cheap black paint. Central to the effect of this truly singular album is Sharp's harrowing vocal performance, ranging from the despondent to the cathartic, sometimes within the same song. A decade later, Cindytalk released its second masterpiece, Wappinschaw, which seems, on the surface, to emanate from emotional regions far calmer than that of its heady predecessor, but on repeated listens reveals itself as constructed from the same emotionally wrenching cloth. Wappinschaw was to be the last album Cindytalk would release for 15 years, and as such, it can be seen as both a culmination and integration of the various elements comprising Sharp's first three albums. Wappinschaw starts with a song as surprising as it is stunning: Sharp's beautifully sung a capella cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face." Elegant, raw, austere, and sounding like a fallen angel, Sharp masterfully sets the tone for the album's dynamic exploration of the extremities of emotion, a tone which moves into more familiar Cindytalk territory on the second track, "A Song of Changes." Mournfully melodic while eschewing anything resembling traditional song structure, Sharp creates a strange dirge-like atmosphere for another of his beautifully-wrecked vocal performances. Perhaps the biggest highlight is "Return to Pain," which features Sharp's heavily reverbed voice backed by some wonderfully moody experimental guitar noodling. Wappinschaw is easily one of the most under-appreciated albums of the nineties, and though it is not a comforting listening experience, it is an exquisitely dark corner offering its own kind of recompense.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Memory of Peter Falk: A Scene from Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987)

Three Strikes and No Internet!

U.S. internet users are now facing the possibility of something many European users have been dealing with for a while: a so called "three strikes" policy legally required of  ISPs in order to control "illegal" file sharing. Here's how it works:

If you are accused by your ISP of downloading or streaming 3 or more "illegal" files, they can:

  • Limit ("throttle-down") your internet band-with and speed
  • Limit access to the world wide web
  • Control specific website access
  • Require offending user to undergo re-education ("pirate school") in the form of an online course on copyright law
  • Ban user from internet access

Such legislation has already been passed in France and the U.K., and now, there are rumblings emanating from the entertainment industry that the MPAA and RIAA are pushing ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and others to voluntarily comply with such a practice (evidently to skip over the legislative part), and of course, they are caving to the pressure. From Jerod Moya,, on the European laws:

"'We welcome the recognition by the UK government – as with increasing numbers of countries around the world – that ISPs have an important role to play in protecting creators and preserving the Internet as an engine of economic growth and a platform for innovative business models,' says RIAA Chairman & CEO Mitch Bainwol. 'To be sure, the more this trend goes global, the greater the possibilities are for a thriving music marketplace that better serves the creators of music and their fans.'

The DEB [Digital Economy Bill] includes website filtering, a ban on open Wi-Fi, and a “three-strikes” regime that would disconnect accused file-sharers from the Internet. It forces ISPs to change from neutral “dumb pipe” broadband providers to “protectors” of the Internet that root out copyright infringement at every turn.

One of the problems is that it invests heavily in the notion that increased scrutiny of Internet users for signs of illegal file-sharing, and then sanctioning them accordingly, will somehow turn them into paying customers. It doesn’t address the core issue of the music industry’s failure to develop a business model that convinces them to buy on their own. The Internet is instead molded to suit the needs of private businesses.

Worse still, as we’ve already seen in France after passage of its own “3-strikes” bill, P2P users will by in large simply switch to alternative methods of acquiring copyrighted material. In the case of France, 2/3 of former P2P users simply switched to non-P2P alternative. like illegal streaming sites and HTTP-based download services (i.e. Rapidshare), but other options like VPNs, Usenet, etc., still remain.

But, a desperate music industry doesn’t seem to care, and as usual, is blinded by its own ignorance."

What can we do? Well, we can start by letting the ISPs know that by adopting such policing measures, they will be alienating their profit source: the customers. To do so, click the link below and sign the petition. Thank you for reading.

Bash the Fash

If you reside in a country that has implemented such a law, please leave a comment and share your experience. Thank you!

Tim Buckley Series, #5: Tim Buckley- Honeyman: Recorded Live 1973 (1995) MP3 & FLAC

"And when the bee's inside the hive, you gonna holler in the thick of love. I'll buy you all the jag I can. This honey man's gonna sting you again."

Following the commercial and critical failure of Tim Buckley's now-legendary experimental Jazz-Folk albums, Blue Afternoon and Starsailor, he, to a great extent, withdrew from the music industry in order to deal with severe artistic and financial crises. His eventual return, though initially heralded by another great album, Greetings from L.A., marked the beginning of a slow descent into heroin addiction and a mostly unsuccessful attempt to adopt a more commercially viable sound that would have his career in shambles by the time of his tragic death (from an accidental heroin overdose) in 1975. The unconvincing results of Buckley's awkward embrace of Funk, particularly on his final studio albums, Sefronia  and the utterly forgettable Look at the Fool, were largely attributable to a lack of urgency and of quality on the part of Buckley's songwriting, poor production choices, and uninspired session players. Given such a context, it might seem that a live recording of Buckley from this period would have nothing revelatory to offer, but Honeyman: Live 1973 suggests otherwise. While this recording isn't of the same luminous quality as Dream Letter: Live in London 1968, it does represent a dramatic re-contextualization of Buckley's later work due to arrangements that are far superior to what is found on Sefronia and Buckley's breathtaking vocal performance. The transformation is evident from the first notes of "Dolphins," which was done in by some horribly cheesy backing vocals on the studio version, but here, it is just Buckley strumming an electric 12-string guitar, minimal but effective backing from his band, and a world-weary cadence in his voice that sounds authentically heartbreaking. Even the funkier material benefits from the live setting; for example, "Get on Top," stripped of all the studio-schmaltz, turns out to be a fine vehicle for some of Buckley's trademark soaring vocals. After listening to Honeyman: Live 1973, it seems clear that much of awkwardness of Buckley's late-career studio albums was likely the result of record company pressure to push his music in a more commercial direction. However, Buckley's restless and fiercely original  muse was never a good fit for such an approach, which explains why out on the road, just playing his music, Buckley sounds as masterful and uncontainable as ever.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pete Shelley- Homosapien (1981) MP3 & FLAC

"And the worlds built of age are a stage where we act out our lives."

In hindsight, Pete Shelley's unanticipated exit from the legendary punk-pop band The Buzzcocks and his incipient career as an artsy New Wave solo artist is not as shocking as it must have appeared to his fans in the early eighties. Shelley had actually recorded an album's worth of Kraut-Rock-influenced Electronic music before forming The Buzzcocks (released in 1979 as Sky Yen). As such, the shift in focus from guitar-based arrangements to the overriding emphasis on synth-based textures and electronic percussion that is evident on his solo-debut, Homosapien, did have some aesthetic precedence for Shelley. The songs comprising the album were actually intended for a fourth Buzzcocks album; however, Shelley decided to record the demos solo primarily using synths, acoustic 12-string guitar, and drum machines, and he was reportedly so impressed with the results that he ended up unceremoniously disbanding one of the greatest bands of the Punk-era. While the musical context is radically changed, Shelley's lyrics and vocals retain much of the gritty pop spirit that characterized his work with his previous band. The classic title track, which clearly provided the blueprint for Pulp's alluring electro-pop of the mid-nineties, blends Bowie-esque vocals and some wonderfully cheesy electronic beats and hand-claps to create one of the true highlights of the New Wave genre. On "I Generate a Feeling," Shelley borrows heavily from Synth-pop pioneers Kraftwerk to create a sound-scape that would be indistinguishable from any number of the faceless synth-bands of the time if it weren't for the brooding lyrics, which effectively establish a thematic tension in relation to the music that is characteristic of the entire album; in doing so, Shelley creates a very similar effect, though in a vastly different arena, to the Buzzcock's unique brand of Punk.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

David Bowie- "Moonage Daydream" (1973) Live, Hammersmith Odeon, July 3

This one's for you Mick Ronson: the most underrated guitar-god of the rock-era. TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME!

David Bowie- Interview: Russell Harty Plus Pop (1973)

Poor David being a perfect gentleman with an interviewer who appears to have a stick up his arse.

Edwyn Collins- Hope and Despair (1989) MP3 & FLAC -For Dave-

"Well he's speaking in riddles, he's speaking in tongues, whilst he plays through a fuzz-box to an audience of one."

Following the rapid demise of his influential Scottish Post-Punk band Orange Juice, Edwyn Collins struggled mightily, as he became something of an outcast garnering no record label interest due to his prevailing (and fairly accurate) reputation for being difficult to work with and having little or no inclination to chase commercial success. Despite a brief stay at a subsidiary of Creation Records, which produced two forgettable singles, Collins' real chance to launch his solo career only came with the help of Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera and some fans of Orange Juice who ran a small studio; the resulting LP, Hope and Despair, while not the masterpiece many believed Collins had in him, is a worthy, if not understated, successor to Collins' legendary earlier work. What becomes immediately clear while listening to Collins' solo debut is that his penchant for exploring the dark side of love is still very much intact; in other words, in terms of lyrical themes, there is more despair on tap than hope (something that was never a natural fit for Collins' brand of clever pessimism). What is also intact is Collins' unique (and sometimes quirky) song-writing ability as evidenced by "50 Shades of Blue," which contains one of the more upbeat arrangements on the album, though lyrically, it is full of Collins' trademark dourness. Backing his unsteady croon with flanged guitars (with help from Frame) and a cheesy Casio melody, in a different universe, the song might have given Collins a taste of the chart success that would continue to elude him until "A Girl Like You" five years later. Perhaps the album's best moment, "Ghost of a Chance," is one quite reminiscent of later-period Orange Juice, as Collins dresses the song in the raiment of sixties-era Soul and delivers one of the album's best vocal performances. Hope and Despair was ultimately a successful venture for Collins, becoming, at the time, Demon Records' best-selling release; however, after Collins' follow-up, the decidedly less impressive Hellbent on Compromise, he was dropped from the label and wallowed in obscurity until his biggest brush with commercial success arrived four years later.

Talk Talk Series, #11: .O.Rang- Herd of Instinct (1994) / Spoor EP (1994) MP3 & FLAC

What makes Talk Talk's final two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, so distinctive is their formal experimentation with both organic instrumentation and diverse aural textures as well as an unconventional recording process based on mostly improvised fragments woven into whole cloth through the editing process. To a large extent, this approach is carried over into .O.Rang, Paul Webb and Lee Harris' often brilliant and always enjoyable post-Talk Talk venture that necessitated the construction of its own studio (called "The Slug"). For the largely impromptu sessions comprising both the Spoor EP and Herd of Instinct, a steady and diverse stream of musicians were brought in to record improvisational jam-sessions with the intention of capturing free-form performances that highlight both the individual instruments themselves, but also the way they seamlessly cohere into carefully constructed soundscapes. Despite the similarities in method between O.Rang and Talk Talk's later work, their results are quite distinct, as .O.Rang tends to delve much more deeply into World Beat textures. On Herd of Instinct, this approach pays off with some amazing Dub and Post-Rock-influenced tracks, such as "Orang," which opens the album. Here, Harris' insistent drumming drives the proceedings while a sea of guitar textures buzzing and ringing in the background carry the oblique melody; however, the song is punctuated by some dynamic moments of calm that keep things from lapsing into repetition. Another standout is "Loaded Values," a song that is slightly reminiscent of Dead Can Dance's later work. Comprised of some great guitar work, Afro-Beat vocals, and a host of other instruments all seemingly doing their own thing in the mix but somehow cohering into something larger, it is a truly engaging listening experience. While .O.Rang's second album, Field of Waves, is also an impressive work, Herd of Instinct retains a certain imprecise, improvisational tone that lends the songs a more organic feel than those on the later album. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pete Shelley- "Homosapien" Video (1981)

"New Wave" just didn't get any better than this:

Paisley Underground Series, #16: Lime Spiders- The Cave Comes Alive (1987) / S/T Live Promo (1987) MP3 & FLAC

"I like your heart but there's no room in it for me."

The various music scenes dealing in neo-psychedelia that mushroomed (pun intended) during the late seventies and early eighties in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere were all as equally influenced by Punk as they were by the psychedelic sixties. So while the influence of bands such as The Byrds, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground was ubiquitous throughout the various scenes, Nuggets-era Garage-Rock was just as influential, as its rawer sound and D.I.Y. ethos suggested an obvious parallel with (and perhaps original influence on) Punk. One of the most admired of these Garage-Rock revivalists were The Lime Spiders. Allegedly named after an Australian tropical drink, the band was formed in Sydney by Mick Blood and Darryl Mather, and their sound was equal parts Punk aggression and Nuggets-style psych-pop. The Lime Spiders spent the first six years of their existence undergoing sporadic line-up changes while occasionally issuing brilliantly unhinged singles, and they did not get around to recording an album until 1987's The Cave Comes Alive!, which has, over the decades, become a full-fledged cult-classic. While the sound of the album was once described in Rolling Stone as "The Sex Pistols on acid," when placed in the larger context of The Lime Spiders' discography, their debut LP indicates a band transitioning away from some of the Garage-Rock elements of their earlier work by integrating subtle pop and conventional hard-rock touches into the arrangements (this would become much more pronounced on their final two albums, Volatile and Beethoven's Fist). Nevertheless, The Cave Comes Alive! still demonstrates plenty of Punk attitude and psychedelic overtones, and includes covers of garage-psych legends The Electric Prunes and The Litter. What is most striking about the album is its wealth of great original songs, such as lead track and single "My Favorite Room," which begins inauspiciously with a progression of overly polished, almost-metal sounding guitar chords but quickly moves in a more familiar Garage-Rock direction when Mick Blood's vocals enter the mix. The wonderfully anarchic cover of The Litter's "Action Woman" is much more reminiscent of The Lime Spiders' earlier work, as it features one of Blood's best graveled vocal turns on the album and a more dynamic, Punk-based arrangement; in doing so, it arguably bests the original. The Cave Comes Alive! suggested that great things lay ahead for The Lime Spiders, but similar to the band they toured with in 1987, The Cult, with each successive album, they lapsed into a more conventional, and thus faceless, hard rock approach; nevertheless, their debut is a Garage-Rock classic and well-deserving of its hallowed status.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lime Spiders- "The Other Side of You" Video (1988)

There's an infestation of Lime Spiders on the horizon...

Jeffrey Lee Pierce- Wildweed (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"With your mind on fire and raving the end, you open the gates and welcome the men."

One look at the cover of Jeffrey Lee Pierce's solo debut--in which he is seen standing casually, maybe even reflectively, in a sparsely populated desert-scape with a shotgun propped on his shoulder--and the subject matter of the songs comprising the album becomes undeniably evident: tales of self-destruction and murder. While anyone familiar with Pierce's incomparable work with his influential noir-punk band The Gun Club will know that these topics are nothing new for him, what is distinctive about Wildweed is the significantly more polished (perhaps too polished) sound of the album and its emphasis on alt-pop structures over his usual Blues-derived fare. Recorded in London, Wildweed  is, among other things, a great place to hear some of Pierce's Television-inspired guitar work and some of his most accomplished songs. Wildweed begins with "Love and Desperation," a strange, almost Ska-like concoction, which features some great tongue-in-cheek vocals from Pierce and a guitar solo dripping with histrionics. This is followed by "Sex Killer," one of the poppier songs on the album, and though it suffers from over-produced eighties-style percussion, Pierce's grimy vocals ultimately take the song over. One of Wildweed's absolute gems is "Hey Juana," which features lyrics that mention Nick Cave and a catchy walking bass line that keeps the song moving at a torrid pace. While not as consistently great as the better Gun Club albums, Wildweed is, nevertheless, a worthy representation of Pierce's singular talents.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Low- Things We Lost in the Fire (2001) MP3 & FLAC

"I don't need a laser beam. I don't need the time. Leave me in the car tonight; 
rest your drunken mind."

Formed in Duluth, Minnesota in the early nineties, Low embody the essence of the Slowcore genre: minimalist arrangements, glacial tempos, and fragile, achingly beautiful vocals. On second thought, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Low embody everything so-called Slowcore bands wish they could be. Taken as a whole, Low's considerable discography (they've been issuing records for 17 years now) can seem a little samey, but with proper care and attention, each album reveals a subtly different personality while not straying far from what makes this band so special. And what makes Low special is their masterful use of space as an additional element in the song arrangements and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's breathtaking vocal harmonies, which often manage to convey by turns (and sometimes simultaneously) an icy despair and an epic warmth that make the songs sound timeless in the way certain old folk songs do. Things We Lost in the Fire is considered by many to be Low's masterpiece because it marks a juncture in their discography where they began to occasionally experiment with different rhythms and a slightly harder sound, the latter being something that would become a little more prominent on future albums. In many ways, lead track "Sunflower" is a quintessential Low song, as it combines darkly-themed lyrics (a tale of murder) with a beautiful minimalist melody that creeps out of the arrangement like a ghost, and then is chased out into the open by Sparhawk and Parker's sweetly melancholic harmonies. In contrast, "Dinosaur Act" introduces a harder edge to Low's sonic palette while still retaining their trademark tempo. Perhaps the most impressive song on Things We Lost in the Fire is one of the most minimally arranged, "Laser Beam." Comprised of little more than Sparhawk's arpeggios and Parker's stunning solo vocal performance, this song exemplifies what sets Low apart from the Slowcore pack: they use the spaciousness and the simplicity of the music to give voice to the silences, thus breathing a sense of emotional authenticity into the recording that would have been lost through a more conventional approach such as drenching the song in pathos-drenched strings. Truly, there is no band better at creating epic emotions out of slightly skewed simplicity.

Hoodoo Gurus- "I Want You Back" Video (1984)

Hands down, one of the best neo-psych songs of the eighties, and one of my all-time favorite videos (especially the singing dinos)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Epic Soundtracks- Change My Life (1996) MP3 & FLAC

"Right on time the words that rhyme came crashing through the door."

The story of Epic Soundtracks is one of those bizarre, twisted tales you can only find in the annals of rock music. He and brother Nikki Sudden had grown up idolizing Can and T-Rex and eventually found their own musical ambitions realized in the form of the short-lived but legendary Post-Punk band Swell Maps. Soundtracks had adopted his ironic stage name well-before his success in this band but for some reason went to the trouble of establishing a copyright on it. As a result, he was (quite hilariously) able to force Epic Records to rename its soundtrack division by threat of a lawsuit. Post-Swell Maps, Soundtracks issued a few singles before taking over the drumming duties in Nikki Sudden's brilliant band of Jangle-Pop wastrels, the Jacobites and later played drums in Rowland S. Howard's Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls. While this is certainly an interesting bio by any standards, he saved the strangest chapter for last: the 1990s resurrection of his fledgling solo career, this time as a piano-based pop balladeer (well, sort of). Epic Soundtracks released three solo-albums before his untimely death in November of 1997, the last of which was Change My Life on which he had started to vary some of the song arrangements by branching out into Jangle-Pop, Motown, and Big Star-inspired Power-Pop. For example, "Steal Away" has a decidedly Specter-era Motown feel, and features one of Soundtrack's trademark sweet and shaggy vocal turns that really shouldn't work, but it does. Another standout is "Wishing Well," which sounds like a ragged John Lennon piano ballad and offers a beautiful example of Epic Soundtracks' gift for pure pop convention. As with his brother, many critics tend to focus on Soundtrack's limited vocal abilities, but also like his brother, his voice carries a raw, immediate expressiveness that more than makes up for what it lacks in range and polish.

Echo & The Bunnymen- "Do It Clean" (1983) Live in London

Today (La) luna is six months old.  My very first post was an Echo & The Bunnymen clip, so I thought I'd mark this milestone with another. Thank you to all my readers past and present for all the kind words and support. I can't wait to see where we're at in another six months. If you want to give (La) luna a birthday present, then hit that 'follow' button :)

Tim Buckley Series, #4: Tim Buckley- Sefronia (1973) MP3 & FLAC

"This old world will never change the way it's been."

The purest distillation of Tim Buckley's creative muse is encapsulated in the trilogy of Jazz-inflected experimental albums he released in 1969-1970: Lorca, Blue Afternoon, and Starsailor. These were intensely personal and uncompromising documents of Buckley's unique musical vision, but all three met with a lack of comprehension from critics and a lack of interest from the record-buying public. This period was an extremely tough time for Buckley both personally and financially, as he was crushed by the cold reception to his most ground-breaking works and consequently suffered so much financially that he had to occasionally work as a chauffeur and cab driver to makes ends meet. When Buckley returned to the studio in the early seventies, he had largely left behind the highly improvised Jazz-Folk hybrid he had been exploring since the late-sixties and instead pursued, with decidedly mixed results, his own idiosyncratic version of Funk-inspired Soul. Sefronia  was Buckley's second album in this vein and while the first, Greetings from L.A., still retained, to some degree, his improvisational approach to vocals, its follow-up comes off as a badly (mis)calculated attempt at chasing mainstream success. To begin with, Soul isn't the best vehicle for Buckley's voice, and to make matters worse, he is backed by L.A. session musicians ill-equipped to do justice to the music itself. Nevertheless, we're talking about Tim Buckley here, and that means his voice alone offers some moments of redemption for the album. For example, on the cover of Fred Neil's "Dolphins," a far superior live version of which can be found on Dream Letter: Live in London 1968, Buckley offers an understated performance (by his standards) that, coupled with Lee Underwood's always lovely guitar work, makes for a promising, if not inauspicious beginning to the album; however, towards the end of the song, back-up singers (in the worst sense of the term) leap into the mix and overwhelm the song's fragile emotional content with the kind of cheesiness that is far beneath an artist like Buckley. Things get even worse on "Peanut Man," an awkward attempt at white-boy Funk that will leave permanent cringe-lines on your face. Despite moments like this, Sefronia also contains the two-part title suite, which echos Buckley's experimental work three years earlier. While not of the same caliber as the earlier work, these songs are free of the arrangement-related missteps that sink much of the album, and feature Buckley's multi-octave voice set free from the prison of bad Funk. While nowhere near as accomplished as his earlier work, Sefronia stands as a last glimpse of Buckley's prodigious talents.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tim Buckley- "Dolphins" (1974) Live on Old Grey Whistle Test

Here's Tim nearing the end. Still, even in the grip of an escalating heroin addiction that would claim his life the following year, that amazing voice of his still sounds peerless:

Paisley Underground Series, #15: Rainy Day- S/T (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"When you think the night has seen your mind, that inside you're twisted and unkind."

David Roback's exit from Rain Parade, the seminal Paisley band that he had formed with his brother Steven, after the release of their neo-psyche classic, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, has long been shrouded in mystery, but whatever the reason--whether he chose to leave over creative differences or was jettisoned by the band for being difficult to work with--it led to the creation of one of the more intriguing and sought-after recordings associated with The Paisley Underground. Essentially a David Roback-curated collaborative project comprised of a number of prominent figures from the Paisley scene, Rainy Day reflects both the unity of the scene in its early days and its impressive array of influences. Recorded by former Minutemen producer Ethan James (also an ex-member of Blue Cheer) at his Radio Tokyo Studios (a small house with carpet-covered walls and no windows that was located a few blocks from Venice Beach), Rainy Day was intended as a tribute to some of the artists who served as inspirations to the Paisley scene, such as The Velvet Underground, Big Star, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys, and others. Roback had compiled a list of potential covers and set about recruiting various friends to come in and contribute to the recording process. Among these were former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith, who would soon join Roback in Clay Allison/Opal, Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, Michael Quercio from The Three O'Clock, former Rain Parade band-mate Matt Piucci, and Dennis Duck and Karl Precoda of The Dream Syndicate. Steven Roback recalls the general mood of the sessions: " the early '80s, the music of the Velvets and Big Star better expressed our mood. It was darker, lonelier, more daring. L.A. was in a somewhat depressed period....Punk was big then and had the right attitude. So the musicians that participated in Rainy Day were trying to recast the spirit of punk but in more expansive musical terms." The album itself features minimal, mostly acoustic arrangements and retains a somber, desolate sense throughout. While Quercio and Roback (yes, he actually sings here!) provide serviceable vocals for half of the songs, it is Susanna Hoffs and Kendra Smith who steal the show. In particular, Hoff's rendition of "I'll Be Your Mirror" is simply stunning and arguably bests Nico's version on the Velvets' debut. Not to be outdone, Smith's version of Alex Chilton's "Holocaust" is just as amazing, her languid, mournful phrasing somehow capturing the bottomless despair of the original. Many describe Rainy Day as the one true masterpiece produced by the Paisley scene; while I hesitate to confer such a lofty status to this record (in my opinion, there were better Paisley recordings), there is no doubt that this is one of the essential documents of the eighties L.A. underground.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can- Tago Mago (1971) MP3 & FLAC

"Well, I saw mushroom head, I was born and I was dead."

Named after a private island off the coast of Ibiza associated with Aleister Crowley, Can's Tago Mago is generally considered one of the pinnacles of the Kraut-Rock genre. It is also noteworthy for being Can's first full-length album with Damo Suzuki as lead vocalist. After the exit of vocalist Malcolm Mooney due to psychological problems, Suzuki, legend has it, was discovered by Bassist Holger Czukay busking outside cafes in Munich and was invited to join Can based on his performance at a single gig the band played later that night. While no one will confuse Suzuki for an accomplished singer, his untethered vocal style, shifting from mumble to chant to shriek by turns, fits Tago Mago's more experimental ambitions perfectly. Julian Cope has described the album as "sound[ing] only like itself, like no-one before or after," and with influences ranging from Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis to Stockhausen, Can's sound at this point was somewhat resistant to categorization. Tago Mago starts out modestly with the somewhat plodding opening to "Paperhouse," but at the two minute mark things transform into an insistently ominous tribal beat punctuated by some amazing layered and multi-tracked guitar work from Michael Karoli. On the album's centerpiece, "Halleluhwah," Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit settle into a Funk-inspired groove which is sustained for the entire 18 minute duration of the song while a parade of different sound effects and textures (as well as Suzuki's vocals) move through the mix. It is hard to over-estimate the ground-breaking status of Can's early-seventies work, and while they would hit similar artistic heights on the two albums that immediately followed Tago Mago, Can would never sound quite this mysterious again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Karaoke a Felony?

Well, in some cases, I guess it should be, but all jokes aside, that elitist and out-of-touch institution called the U.S. Congress has recently introduced a new bill (S. 978, The "Ten Strikes" bill) at the behest of the entertainment industry that would effectively make it a FELONY to stream copyrighted content, such as music on a Youtube video, more than ten times. Yes, I said a FELONY. From Demand Progress:

"As the writers at TechDirt point out, under this bill you could go to jail for posting video of your friends singing karaoke:

'The entertainment industry is freaking out about sites that embed and stream infringing content, and want law enforcement to put people in jail over it, rather than filing civil lawsuits.... We already pointed to one possibility: that people embedding YouTube videos could face five years in jail. Now, others are pointing out that it could also put kids who lip sync to popular songs, and post the resulting videos on YouTube, in jail as well.'"

This is just the latest example of the short-sighted greed of the entertainment industry and the subservience of elected officials to this industry's censorship agenda. Entertainment-related profits have never been higher, but this isn't enough. Apparently, people need to have their lives ruined for sharing some music with other people, because, of course, such a use could never ALSO function as a form of promotion could it? (sarcasm). Hey Warner, Sony, EMI, Universal, RIAA, and MPAA:  FUCK YOU!

Bash the Fash

Paisley Underground Series, #14: Game Theory- Real Nighttime (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"Send me home counting the chances I've had. I could fill up three digits, 
but that's not what it means to be sad."

While The Paisley Underground is commonly characterized as a bastion of neo-psychedelia (the moniker unfortunately promotes this), as a movement, it was actually diverse enough to include everything from cow-punk to Power-Pop. Another myth about The Paisley Underground is that it was primarily an L.A.-based phenomenon; in reality, many of the core bands in the movement had migrated south, in one form or another, from Davis, CA., which was home to its own vibrant music scene that functioned as something of a precursor to the more famous Paisley scene. Bands such as The Dream Syndicate, True West, Thin White Rope and Scott Miller's Game Theory all got their start, at least to some degree, in the Davis scene. Game Theory, whose sound was predicated more on seventies-style Power-Pop than the psychedelia embraced by many of their contemporaries, formed in Sacramento in 1982 and quickly found themselves playing the same clubs as the bands that would later foment the Paisley scene in L.A. By 1984, they had built up enough of a reputation to attract preeminent Jangle-Pop producer Mitch Easter (who had produced R.E.M.'s brilliant debut Murmur) to man the production booth for their first professionally recorded LP, Real Nighttime. While Miller and co. were clearly in thrall to Big Star and sixties-era Brit-Rock, on Real Nighttime, their brand of Power-Pop is anything but derivative, as it incorporates elements of New Wave such as keyboard textures, smart, often irreverent, lyrics and no lack of odd structural twists and turns. For example, on "24," what at first sounds like a straightforward piece of R.E.M.-style Jangle-Pop quickly turns in to a quirky hybrid of jangly guitars, cascading keyboards, and Miller's sweet lead vocals that occasionally sound Chilton-esque in their upper-register earnestness. Speaking of Alex Chilton, perhaps the album's true highlight is Game Theory's cover of "You Can't Have Me" from Big Star's 3rd. This has never been one of my favorite Big Star songs, but in the hands of Miller and co., it sounds both more developed and more raw. Brief though it is, it ranks with Kendra Smith's version of "Holocaust" from the Rainy Day album as among the best Big Star covers I've heard. Game Theory were one of the more melodically gifted bands of The Paisley Underground, and though they largely avoided overt neo-pyche elements in their sound, their unconventional approach to the Big Star Power-Pop template makes them yet another worthy Paisley (re)discovery.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Billy Bragg- "Strange Things Happen" (1984) Live on The Tube

I'd have a hard time coming up with a musician I admire more than Billy Bragg. Here he is strapped into his busking gear singing to a bunch of bewildered onlookers. I love the part where he stops momentarily and sings to the girl:

The Distorted Lens of Internet Explorer

Hello dear readers,

This morning, on a whim, I decided to take a look at (La) luna from the perspective of a different browser (I am a dedicated Firefox user), so I opened Internet Explorer 8.0 for the first time in months and was horrified at what I saw: a big black space above the header and incorrectly sized tabs on the tab bar. I've done some research and have found that many bloggers complain about similar problems with the way their blogs show up in Internet Explorer; however, no fixes were evident. All I can say is that if you want to see (La) luna as it is intended to look, then you'll need to use a browser other than Internet Explorer. My suggestion is Firefox, but there are many other good alternatives:

Download Firefox 4 (English Version)

Jacobites- S/T (1984) / Shame for the Angels EP (1984) MP3 & FLAC

"I moved out from the Bible Belt and down to Silver Street, Victorian oasis in the afternoon, the place we always used to meet."

Following the demise of the Swell Maps, Nikki Sudden took (what at the time) seemed like an unforeseen turn toward the kind of rock classicism that his previous band had been concerned with deconstructing. On the heels of two solo albums, Waiting on Egypt and The Bible Belt, Sudden's initially brief collaborative venture with ex-Subterranean Hawks guitarist Dave Kusworth took form during the various and sundry sessions that had originally been intended for a third Sudden solo record but that soon became the basis for the Jacobites' eponymous debut. Exhibiting an unmistakable penchant for late-sixties Brit-Rock and its tarted-up younger cousin Glam, the obvious touchstone for Sudden & Kusworth's flamboyantly wasted garage aesthetic is Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones mixed with a touch of T-Rex. However, what makes Jacobites such an intriguing listening experience 25 years after the fact is the undeniable quality of the music, which, at the time, ran entirely against the grain of every conceivable music trend in Post-Punk Britain. With a heavy emphasis on acoustic instruments and sonic immediacy, the Jacobites' debut is a beautiful, shambolic mix of raw emotion and authentic Rock 'n' Roll swagger. Opening with the much admired original version of "Big Store" (a highly truncated acoustic version turned up on the Jacobites' second LP, Robespierre's Velvet Basement), the Jacobites turn on the amps and offer up a mesmerizing slow-burner with some great melodic bass-work from Mark Lemon and Nikki Sudden's wasted, heartbroken Dylan-esque drawl. Another gorgeous song among many is "Silver Street," an off-kilter, slightly out-of-tune, ragged ballad that features some memorable acoustic guitar and vocal interplay between Sudden and Kusworth. Some critics point to Sudden's limited ability as a vocalist as an explanation for why his body of work was (and still is) often overlooked; however, Sudden's voice fits this music perfectly, as it manages, in subtle ways, to convey the excess at the core of heartache, something a more polished singer could never accomplish.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Eric Burdon & The Animals- "When I Was Young" (1967) Live on Shebang, KTLA TV, Los Angeles

The Animals lip-syncing their dark psych masterpiece on an American Bandstand knockoff called Shebang, which aired in the mid-sixties locally in L.A. and was hosted by none other than....can you guess? (he makes an appearance at the end).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #13: The Stems- At First Sight Violets Are Blue (1987) Remastered Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -Thank You Cudawaver!-

"Well I'm feeling like a weed in the garden of love. I'm looking like an aphid on a rosebud."

While precious little has been written about the history and influence of the various music scenes devoted to psychedelic revivalism that bloomed in the U.S. during the early eighties (The Paisley Underground being the closest thing to an exception here), even less has been written about the concurrent Australian neo-psych movement that was just as rich with talented (re)interpreters of the psychedelic tradition. Bands such as The Lime Spiders, The Hoodoo Gurus, Celibate Rifles, Died Pretty, The Church, and The Stems comprised a diverse scene ranging from Nuggets-style garage-pych to Byrds-inspired Jangle. While Dom Mariani's The Stems began firmly (and brilliantly) in the Garage-Rock end of this spectrum, by the time of the release of their first full-length, At First Sight Violets Are Blue, in 1987, the band had become (equally brilliant) purveyors of seventies-style Power-Pop. While the production is a bit on the tinny side, there is no denying that Mariani and Richard Lane are adept at writing hook-filled, Rickenbacker-drenched Jangle-Pop. There is no better example of this than "At First Sight," with its compressed guitar sound, jangly arpeggios, and sugar-sweet vocals, it is just as reminiscent of The dB's as it is of The Byrds. While much of At First Sight Violets Are Blue proceeds in a similarly gorgeous melodic vein, there are a few throwbacks to The Stems' earlier Garage-Rock days; for example, "Mr. Misery," which follows on its Bo Diddly-esque intro with an electric organ-driven burner that trots out one irresistible hook after another. On the strength of their first album, The Stems went from cult indie band to the top of the Australian charts seemingly overnight, a development that sadly led to the band's demise just as quickly. Nevertheless, The Stem's debut album stands as one of the sweetest slices of neo-pysche Power-Pop you're likely to find.

The Pop Group- Y (1979) / How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980) MP3 & FLAC

"No sequence to follow, no fear of tomorrow."

When mentioning the movers and shakers of the early days of Post-Punk, bands such as Gang of Four, Wire, and Siouxsie and The Banshees (for whom the term "Post-Punk" was coined) are usually the first mentioned; however, there were a number of other bands who were just as instrumental in the rise of this innovative and exceedingly influential movement though they ended up with much smaller, and consequently lesser known, discographies. The Pop Group, an ironically-named outfit of Agit-Funk-Punk provocateurs from Bristol, were just such a band. Much like Gang of Four, The Pop Group were interested in ideology critique from a decidedly radical leftist perspective; however, unlike their Leeds-based cousins, theirs is a much more fractured and varied approach, often pushing the discord and abrasiveness to aesthetic extremes while integrating Funk, Dub, Jazz, and Punk influences. On their striking debut, Y, The Pop Group find a perfect balance between political didacticism and sonic adventurousness. For example, on the brilliant "She Is Beyond Good and Evil," lead singer Mark Stewart sounds something like Ian McCulloch channeling Birthday Party-era Nick Cave while fronting The Clash. Drenched in Dub-style reverb that lends the song an increasing sense of claustrophobia, it is one of the most memorable and creepy songs of the early Post-Punk milieu. The remainder of the album is full of unforeseen twists and turns; from the Aladdin Sane-style lounge piano turned upside down and inside out on "Snowgirl" to the cannibalistic Funk of "Don't Call Me Pain," Y makes a strong case for being one of the most demanding and fascinating albums of its era. While The Pop Group's follow-up LP For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? maintains the Funk-inspired approach of the debut, it is far less experimental in nature; as a result, the lyrics, and thus the political rants, are pushed to the foreground, which actually works to the detriment of the band's purpose. Nevertheless, there are some worthy moments, including "Feed the Hungry," a straight-up Funk song with some deliciously abrasive guitar work. While not as accomplished as some of their more famous contemporaries, The Pop Group were masters of a Punk and Dub influenced brand of Agit-Rock that still retains its chaotic and unconventional qualities to this day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shearwater- "Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five" (2006) Live, KUT's Retread Sessions, Austin, TX

Water birds have always been a favorite of mine. It has something to do with their ability to adapt to radically different conditions as well as their grace and beauty. A shearwater is a majestic long-winged migratory sea bird. Shearwater is a majestic, multi-talented Austin-based indie band.

(La) luna Artist Archives

Hello dear readers,

Just a word about a (semi) new feature on the (La) luna website: in the sidebar on the right, just beneath the search box is the (La) luna Artist Archives. This is a set of links to static pages containing all the links and artwork to the various series (both completed and ongoing) as well as artists who have accumulated 5 or more posts. This allows easy access to all the series posts as well as a way to quickly access the links and artwork to frequently posted artists.  Take a look if you haven't already done so.

Once again, thank you for your continuing support and comments. I greatly appreciate it.  I have some time off from work coming up soon, so I will be able to post a little more frequently. Coming soon: Jacobites, Stems, Game Theory, Tim Buckley, These Immortal Souls, Dramarama, Nick Drake and more :)

I always encourage and welcome new followers, so if you are presently a lurker, please hit the "follow" button on the right. Thank you!

 A view from the entrance to (La) luna Archives

Chris Bell- I Am the Cosmos (1992) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"So it goes, on and on, my love grows, and yours is gone."

Chris Bell's exit from Big Star after the commercial failure of #1 Record  has, over the decades, become shrouded in speculation and mystery. His brother, Dave Bell, has suggested Chris quit his own band due to feeling overshadowed by Alex Chilton, whose celebrity extended beyond Memphis as a result of his stint in The Box Tops. There are also stories of Bell falling into a crippling depression as a result of the ill-fated fortune of Big Star's debut album, which he had worked on obsessively for nearly two years, but whatever the reason, Bell's departure was a bitter one, and featured, according to speculation, fights with other band members and spitefully erased master tapes. While Bell would eventually mend fences with his Big Star band-mates, he never again officially rejoined the band that he had originally started. In the aftermath, Big Star became Chilton's band and continued to languish in vastly undeserved obscurity, while Bell began work on a solo career that sadly would not come to fruition until 14 years after his tragic death, at 27, in a car accident. On one level, I Am the Cosmos is a compilation of the various studio sessions and demos that Bell had worked on throughout his post-Big Star years, but on another level, it functions as a cohesive and often brilliant reminder that Bell (even in absentia) played a big role in crafting Big Star's singular brand of Power-Pop. Nowhere is this more evident than on the gorgeously dark title track, which is easily the equal of anything he recorded in Big Star. With lyrics such as "Every night I tell myself I am the cosmos / I am the wind / But that don't get you back again," the song is a stark and unforgettable reminder of Bell's personal demons and his tortured pop genius. Another lush descent into romantic despair is the open-tuned ballad "Speed of Sound," which features some of the most beautifully recorded acoustic guitar you're ever likely to hear. Once again, Bell is preoccupied with the apparent hopelessness of connecting with others, but the song is dressed in such beautiful textures (including some Moog toward the end), that it refuses to succumb to the inconsolable desolation conveyed in the lyrics. Bell's is one of the more tragic stories in the annals of rock music, and while I Am the Cosmos carries some of this weight (it is his epitaph after all), it is also a great piece of pathos-soaked Power-Pop that demands to be heard.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #10: Talk Talk- Spirit of Eden (1988) MP3 & FLAC

"Tell me how I fear it, I buy prejudice for my health. Is it worth so much when you taste it?"

The Colour of Spring  and it's resulting world tour provided Talk Talk with their first significant taste of international success, and as a result, EMI, assuming the band was poised for an even more lucrative step into the mainstream, awarded them with an enormous budget and a generous deadline for the recording of their next album, Spirit of Eden. However, there were indications early on that Talk Talk were chasing a vastly different muse. During The Colour of Spring tour, Mark Hollis had become increasingly disillusioned and withdrawn (partly due to heroin addiction); then, following the tour, he moved to rural Suffolk, taking up a hermetic lifestyle that was to greatly influence the direction the band would take on their final two albums. For the recording of Spirit of Eden, the band reportedly occupied a former Church for eleven months, thus avoiding all contact with outsiders, a practice which included Hollis' refusal to provide any advanced tapes for their handlers at EMI. According to Producer Phil Brown, recording often took place in the dark and was comprised entirely of improvised overdubs (there were no band takes recorded). Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene then meticulously edited down the massive amount of recorded material into the suite of six songs comprising the finished album. The music itself is nothing less than an incandescent mix of Jazz, Blues, Classical, Ambient, and deconstructed pop, and from the opening measures of "The Rainbow" with its Miles meets DeBussy feel, it's hard not to imagine the reaction at EMI when they finally received the advanced tape of the completed album. While the arc of Talk Talk's artistic evolution had often been quite dramatic from album to album, it is clear, as the ambient prelude of "The Rainbow" is pierced-through with bluesy guitar and an over-amped harmonica and Hollis' meditative vocals glimmer-forth, that Spirit of Eden is both unprecedented and musically important. EMI's response was predictable: the album wasn't commercial enough, so Hollis was asked to re-record and replace some material, something he steadfastly refused to do, and while he was at it, he also notified EMI that there would be no single, video or tour to promote the album. Eventually, Hollis relented on the first two, and "I Believe in You" was chosen to be edited down for release as a single complete with promotional video. The fact that this song is Hollis' paean to losing himself while in the throes of heroin addiction adds just one more ironic layer to EMI's handling of the album. The song itself is a Jazz-inflected slow burner that grows darker by the measure, and contains an absolutely gorgeous and unforgettable vocal turn by Hollis. Simply put, Spirit of Eden inhabits the same visionary, transcendent, and artistically uncompromising sphere as Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Albums like these are the rarest of gems because they are untethered from convention and expectation and unmediated by the interests of the marketplace. Hear this.

The Stems- "For Always" Video (1987)

Amazing Australian neo-psyche power-pop perfection:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Talk Talk- "I Believe in You" (1988) Live on Countdown, Dutch TV

Reportedly Talk Talk's last TV appearance. At this point in their career, I'm amazed anyone could even get them to lip-sync

Dramarama- Cinéma Vérité (1985) MP3 & FLAC

"Does she make you buy her jewelry? Does she make you speak in tongues? Does she tell you about her brother whose got liquid in his lungs?"

Dramarama's debut album, Cinéma Vérité, was originally a French-only release, as an earlier EP had garnered the band a good amount of interest in Europe, resulting in a record deal with the French New Rose label. Not long after, the influential L.A. disc jockey and underground pop-culture maven Rodney Bingenheimer began playing songs from the album on his weekly radio show (rumor has it that he initially thought these New Jersey boys were French). On the strength of "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)," a torrid Glam-inspired break-up song that instantaneously transformed Dramarama into cult icons, the band was invited, with the help of Bingenheimer, to fly out to L.A. to play a show at The Roxy in Hollywood. What followed was a permanent move to Southern California, a domestic re-release of Cinéma Vérité, and a lot of effusive praise emanating from Indie/underground music circles. Taken on its own terms, Cinéma Vérité is, first and foremost, a fine piece of glammy Power-Pop that harbors a number of gems beyond its iconic centerpiece. On "Scenario," for instance, the band mixes the snarling pop sensibilities of The Psychedelic Furs with the rough-edged glam of Mott the Hoople. Another standout is "Questions?," featuring a great embittered vocal performance from John Easdale and some memorable guitar-work from Mr. E Boy and Peter Wood. The album ends with a stunner, the ballad "Emerald City," which consists of a loping acoustic guitar strum, tinkling piano notes, and Easdale pushing his voice into the upper register to great affect. A beautiful way to end an amazing debut that stands as one of the essential indie-rock albums of the eighties.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Lotus Eaters- First Picture of You: BBC Recordings (1998) MP3 & FLAC

"She is the hunger artist, alone of all her sex."

Liverpool's The Lotus Eaters were a band who did not fit comfortably into any of the various subdivisions of the Post-Punk movement. Their roots lay in lead singer Peter Coyle's earlier band Jass Babies, whose sound had much in common with the raw melodic approach of Joy Division, and guitarist Jem Kelly's The Wild Swans, a Jangle-Pop band he formed with ex-Teardrop Explodes keyboardist Paul Simpson. While The Lotus Eaters were typically grouped with New Romantics such as Visage and Japan, their sound, if not their image, suggested they were very much out of step with the trendy theatricality of the genre; rather, their music combined romantically-obsessed lyrics with more organic, Folk-inspired guitar-based textures, which, in some ways, prefigured the Sarah Records sound that bloomed at the close of the eighties. First Picture of You: BBC Recordings collects several John Peel sessions and few other radio recordings that predate the band's debut long-player, the brilliant and under-appreciated No Sense of Sin. While these albums have a number of songs in common, with a few exceptions (such as the title track), the earlier BBC versions employ sparer arrangements, thus allowing Coyle's fragile, unaffected vocals more space in the mix. However, the true star here is Kelly's luminous guitar-work, which ranges from lovely Felt-like arpeggios to some fine, dynamic acoustic strumming. A gorgeous example of this is "When You Look at Boys," which begins as a wistful ballad, but halfway through, Kelly dials up the dynamics several notches, and in doing so, makes it one of the most memorable tracks on the album. Another standout is "German Girl," a catchy sophisto-pop gem that again features some lovely contributions from Kelly. The Lotus Eaters' taste for sixties baroque-pop and its ornate instrumental tendencies certainly set them at odds with the prevailing trends of Post-Punk in the early eighties, and as a result, they quickly disintegrated after releasing the one album. Nevertheless, they are well-deserving of rediscovery.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dramarama- "Haven't Got a Clue" Video (1991)

Great band from the L.A. music scene of the late eighties and early nineties. I think they originally hailed from New Jersey (which was something of a power-pop mecca at the time): can you spot Rodney Bingenheimer?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #12: The Gun Club- Fire of Love (1981) MP3 & FLAC

"Gonna get me religion. Gonna join the Baptist church. Gonna be a Baptist preacher, 
so I don't have to work."

While The Gun Club weren't the only band effectively mining the strange but fertile intersection between Punk and the American country-blues tradition (The Birthday Party are an obvious parallel here), no one was doing it with quite as much raw immediacy (and for that matter, authenticity) as Jeffrey Lee Pierce and co. Pierce's formative years were spent in the city of El Monte in Southern California, and as a teenager, he became immersed in the underground Punk scene that was burgeoning in and around L.A. during the late seventies. One characteristic that differentiated this scene from other Punk scenes at the time was the integration of roots music into the Punk aesthetic by bands such as The Blasters, X, and The Flesh Eaters. What set The Gun Club apart from their contemporaries was Pierce's overriding interest in the Delta-Blues, which provided him with a wealth of dark themes and imagery with which to construct his "fire & brimstone" tales of sex, excess, and death. Given an appropriately bare-bones production by Chris D. (of The Flesh Eaters), The Gun Club's debut, Fire of Love is a heady concoction of Swampy Blues, Country-Goth, Rockabilly, and Punk. Pierce's singular voice, equals parts cow-punk twang and hardcore rant, lends emotional weight to these howling testimonials and wailing confessionals, simultaneously grounding these songs in well-worn traditions and recasting them in radically new contexts. An obvious example of this is the cover of Robert Johnson's "Preaching the Blues," which, while thoroughly re-imagining this apocalyptic Delta-Blues chestnut as a psycho-billy epic, manages to do justice to the creepy fatalism of the original. One of Pierce's most brilliant Country-Punk amalgamations is "She's Like Heroin to Me," which features some wonderfully dark electric slide-guitar work from Ward Dotson, relentless drumming from Terry Graham, and one of Pierce's most manic vocal performances. While legends of the L.A. underground, The Gun Club were not technically affiliated with The Paisley Underground scene; however, it is hard to overestimate the influence Fire of Love had on many of the roots-oriented Paisley bands such as Blood on the Saddle, True West, The Long Ryders and Green on Red.

Sigur Rós- ( ) (2002) / Live at St. Andrews United Church, Vancouver, CA (2001) MP3 & FLAC

Sigur Rós' third album is, in many ways, an attempt to re-define the band's glacially sprawling sound after the breakthrough success of their previous album, Ágætis Byrjun, a lush, often string-drenched affair that garnered the band, among other things, their first significant exposure in Europe and America, which culminated in an opening slot on tour with Radiohead. Three years later, the cryptic ( ) appeared giving every indication Sigur Rós had no desire to chase mainstream Indie success (at least not yet). First, there is the title: parentheses surrounding empty space, suggesting not just the absence of a title, but absence as interlude, which, of course, hints at the music itself: silence as an interlude between notes and/or the note as an interlude between silences. Then there's the artwork, which is both lovely and noticeably free of all the liner material one usually expects with such lavish packaging, save for the band's website address. Musically, ( ) represents a more "stripped-down" approach relative to their previous album, trading in the strings (well, most of them), enveloping melodies, and recognizable song-structures for more atmospheric Post-Rock arrangements, an emphasis on guitars and instrumental loops, and a good (and welcome) dose of dissonance. Whereas Ágætis Byrjun allowed some warm textures and rays of light to intermingle with the glacial Sturm und Drang of the song arrangements, ( ) sustains a more funereal tone while avoiding the kind of emotional dynamics that made the previous album so affecting and in places irritatingly overwrought. As with the album itself, the songs comprising ( ) bear no titles; the effect of which is to render the songs unidentifiable except for their order and what differentiates them musically. On the opening track, things begin with a deep, somber, almost dissonant electronic hum, which lays the foundation for the basic melody that repeats, as if on a loop, throughout the entire song. Soon the electronic effect is mimicked by icy piano notes and Jon Thor Birgisson's highly-treated cooing vocals, thus creating a slow, dirge-like movement that is both achingly beautiful and hopelessly adrift. The sixth song features some lovely vocals by Birgisson backed by thumping percussion amidst a surprisingly spare arrangement until things build toward a dramatic crescendo of guitar chime and distortion. There is no denying that ( ) is not as accessible as Ágætis Byrjun; however, the album's darker inclinations lend it a different kind of emotional depth that makes it one of the more memorable recordings of the Post-Rock genre.