Saturday, July 30, 2011

Suede- "So Young" Live (1993) from Love & Poison

In their early incarnation with Bernard Butler on guitar, Suede were one hell of an impressive band.

Indie Artist Feature: The Moles- The Future Sounds of Ashton (2010) MP3 & FLAC

From Brin Davies of The Moles:

"The album began as a fantasy recording project between me and Billy [Fuller] our bass player, inspired by our love of the Rubble uk psych comps. We threw the gauntlet down and set ourselves the target of writing and recording a song once a week. It was also a useful way for me to exorcise whatever ghosts I was dealing with in my job; I run a psychiatric admissions ward. We ended up doing this for a year or so until we morphed the project into a full band [....] most of the press we received focused on the 'English whimsy tag; I've always been a bit narked by this and see it as a much more neurotic affair. It's for this reason I don't feel it necessary to do the Bandcamp thing; I'm more interested in giving it a good send off."

(La) luna Review:

The term "psychedelic" literally translates from ancient Greek as "soul-manifesting," suggesting a (sometimes ecstatic, sometimes meditative) state of mental experience (often drug-induced) that allows for a sense of freedom or liberation from the intricate web of conventions/assumptions/expectations that rigidly govern every aspect of our conscious perceptions and experiences of the world. As such, the influence of psychedelia on artistic pursuits such as music and visual media has often been portrayed, quite reductively, as amounting to little more than escapism and fantasy.  And while there certainly are aspects of this cultural phenomenon that can be adequately defined by such terms, psychedelia also has a darker, chaotic side reflecting an experience of the incomprehensible abyss lying just beyond the flimsy trappings of society and the illusion society fosters of the normative psyche (or "soul"). It is this darker side of the psychedelic experience that The Moles explore on The Future Sounds of Ashton, which, while certainly owing a debt to late sixties psychedelic icons such as Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, bears the imprint of more obscure inspirations such as mid-sixties-era Garage-Rock as documented on the Rubble and Nuggets comps and the harrowing psychic journeys of singer-songwriters such as Skip Spence and Bill Fay. However, what also distinguishes The Moles' brand of psych-rock is the healthy dose of Punk and Post-Punk attitude the band infuses it with, giving the songs a claustrophobic grit often missing in the work of other psych-rock revivalists.  The album's opener, the title track, is a perfect example of this, as it almost suggests what Johnny Rotten would have sounded like sitting in for Syd Barrett on "Astronomy Domine." With Fuller's pulsing bass setting the pace for Davies' almost chanted vocals, the song is an absolute burner that is beautifully fleshed out by the Pink Floyd-style vocal harmonies that punctuate the melody. Another move on The Future Sounds of Ashton that sets The Moles apart is the inclusion of songs such as "Three Ghosts in My House," which is insistently memorable because of its use of dynamics; by intertwining the kind of psych-influenced singer-songwriter material mentioned earlier with occasional blasts of the formidable aural attack that characterizes many of the album's other songs, The Moles create a stunning centerpiece to an album that more than stands on its own as a fine piece of psych-rock, but also leaves the listener highly anticipating the interesting and less familiar avenues the band might take on its next album. Here's to hoping the music continues to wear its neuroses proudly and powerfully.

Friday, July 29, 2011

David Bowie- Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 (2006) MP3 & FLAC

"But the key to the city is in the sun that pins the branches to the sky."

David Bowie's September 25th, 1971 appearance at the Friars Club in Aylesbury, England was, for all intents and purposes, the first live appearance of the band that would soon come to be known as The Spiders from Mars (for this show, they were joined by ex-Animal Tom Parker on piano). Bowie had spent the previous summer months appearing at the Glastonbury Fair (in June), completing the recording sessions that would eventually yield Hunky Dory, and traveling to the U.S. to do a publicity tour (he couldn't perform due to not having a union card), during which, while in New York, he entered the orbit of Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. At this point in time, Bowie was still in the process of building a fan base on both sides of the Atlantic despite his brush with success two years earlier with the "Space Oddity" single. However, it was no secret that he had nagging doubts about his ability to ever gain the kind of popularity he desired in the U.K. And legend has it that it was the 1971 Aylesbury gig that convinced him otherwise. As audience member Rick Pearce recalls, "Bowie arrived on stage to a collective "Oooh!" worthy of Frankie Howerd. I'm not sure what some people were expecting. Major Tom, or a drag act or something of both, but he certainly looked different. Wearing huge blue oxford bags, a white satin jacket and the red and black platforms seen on the reissue of the Space Oddity  album, he was light years away from your average beardy, shaggy, muso bloke." Drummer Woody Woodmansey has said that the band spent weeks rehearsing for the Aylesbury show, as it was their first as a group and something of a "coming out" party for Bowie. Interestingly, the show begins tentatively with Bowie and Mick Ronson doing an acoustic set, which includes a couple of Biff Rose covers, Jacques Brel's "Port of Amsterdam," and "Space Oddity," which Bowie self-deprecatingly prefaces by saying, "This is one of my own that we get over with as soon as possible." Eventually the entire band joins Bowie and Ronson on stage for a 10-song set that includes great renditions of "The Supermen," "Oh! You Pretty Things," and an early version of "Queen Bitch" with different lyrics. Aylesbury Friars Club 1971 offers a rare live glimpse of pre-Ziggy era Bowie, alternating between a modest hesitancy and an awareness that he is on the cusp of something great. While the audio source is certainly an audience recording, the sound is quite clear, if not slightly distant. Despite the sonic limitations, this show captures a key moment in Bowie's meteoric rise to fame in the early seventies, and as such, it is nearly as essential as the more famous Santa Monica Civic Auditorium show recorded the following year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #15: Mark Hollis- S/T (1998) MP3 & FLAC

"Soar the bridges that I burnt before, one song among us all."

"Over the last couple of hours, it was a very loose, flexible affair [....] The whole point with the last albums was that, you know, it isn't this kind of band-thing where it's all like this tight thing that you're forced into. It was much looser; we could come together and play, but the thing with me and Tim [Friese-Greene], we had worked together over a long period and then we got to a point where we thought that there was really nowhere for us to go in terms of how we work and how we write." This is Mark Hollis' explanation for Talk Talk's demise shortly after the completion of their brilliant swan-song, Laughing Stock. Actually, there were plans for a sixth Talk Talk album, Mountains of the Moon, as their contract with Verve / Polydor required them to deliver a second album (the aforementioned Laughing Stock being the first) though there was no time-frame specified for doing so. It's unclear why Mountains of the Moon didn't materialize given the band had gone so far as to name the new project, but what is clear was Hollis' uncompromising refusal to repeat himself, which was the very thing that had driven Talk Talk's dramatic evolution over the course of its existence. Following the dissolution of the band, Hollis spent the better part of seven years expanding his musical knowledge by learning to read and write music notation and using these new skills to compose classical-style minimalist pieces for piano and woodwinds (one of which, "Piano," can be found on A V 1). This allowed him to explore the sonic minimalism that characterized the last two Talk Talk albums in ways even further afield of the pop tradition. So while it's tempting to think of Hollis' eponymous 1998 solo debut as the long delayed appearance of that aborted final Talk Talk album, in actuality, it represents a significant change in approach from the Laughing Stock sessions. As Hollis has revealed, "It was not intended to be different, but then it is totally obvious to me that it would be. Because given the things I wanted to do on this album, I didn't imagine it would have any relationship at all with modern music." For the recording of Mark Hollis, one key element of continuity with the final Talk Talk album was the continued presence of Phill Brown, who, this time out, served as sound engineer. Nevertheless, as Brown recalls, the approach to recording was quite different than what had been done for previous albums: "Unlike Spirit of Eden  or Laughing Stock, there were demos of almost all the songs; it was easy to know where we were heading and what was required. The previous albums had been recorded by chance, accident, and hours of trying every possible overdub idea [....] However on Mark's project, everything was scored and written down." While starting from a much more structured place than earlier recording sessions, Mark Hollis was still built, to a significant degree, on improvisation, but this time, a more Jazz-influenced approach was used for getting these performances on tape. Hollis: "The idea was to have carefully worked out structures, within which the musicians would have a lot of freedom. I'd just say to them, 'okay we're here, we want to get there- now let's play.'" Another departure from previous sessions was Hollis' insistence on exclusively employing both acoustic instrumentation and acoustic recording techniques, which helped lend Mark Hollis it's haunting sense of stillness: "I just love the sound of [acoustic] instruments hid that low down and the physical sounds that surround the instrument, whether it's creaking or whether it's the way air goes through or whatever. That is almost as important as the note. So just purely on a sound aspect, the reality of what an acoustic instrument is, is one reason for why the album is so quiet." In terms of the music itself, though certainly a sonic departure in some ways, it is a worthy follow-up to Talk Talk's inimitable mature work. On the opening track, "The Colour of Spring," with a title suggesting continuity with the past but a sound indicating anything but, Hollis goes it alone on piano and vocals, delivering a stark yet intensely gorgeous performance that uses the silences punctuating his minimalist piano melody to create a sense of space around his yearning vocals, which seem intent on pushing the impressionistic lyrics beyond their articulative limits. Alternatively, "The Gift" reveals a fuller arrangement with a bopping Jazz-influenced rhythm section beautifully running counterpoint to Hollis' wistful, very nearly insensible, though powerfully expressive vocals. Another minimalist gem is "Westward Bound," sounding more like a folk song, though without any sense of formal structure, it features some simple but lovely acoustic guitar parts and Hollis' voice barely needing to rise above a whisper to produce its devastating emotional impact. Mark Hollis is a work that manages to feel simultaneously profound and irretrievably distant, which means that one inevitable aspect of listening to it is to experience ambivalence, something Hollis would see as an opportunity to dig deeper: "It's like in a relationship. The more you focus on the music, the more you will hear from the music. The more that you give in terms of listening to what's happening on the album, the more things will reveal themselves within the album."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Penetration- Moving Targets (1978) MP3 & FLAC

"I looked into the hourglass and watched the grains of sand. I wandered through the latitudes and crossed the strangest lands."

The story of Penetration's brief rise to prominence in 1977 on the back of their brilliant first single and their precipitous fall from grace a year later is the kind of thing that could have only occurred in the context of the U.K. Punk scene of the late-seventies. Inspired by The Sex Pistols (at the time, lead singer Pauline Murray was a member of the "Durham Contingent" of their fan club) and having borrowed their name from a song by Iggy and The Stooges, Penetration embodied the D.I.Y. ethos of the original Punk movement by forming and then becoming a mainstay on the scene practically overnight (their second gig was opening for The Stranglers). In retrospect, their first single, "Don't Dictate," was a stunning achievement for such an inexperienced band, and while it is often considered one of the enduring gems of the original Punk movement, even at this early stage in their development, Penetration's taste for New York Art-Rock à la Patti Smith and their proclivity for displaying musical acuity on their recordings suggested that they might not be a comfortable fit for the slam-dancing crowd. However, it wasn't until the release of their debut album, Moving Targets in 1978 that Penetration began hearing murmurs that they weren't Punk enough. In actuality, the band's second single, "Firing Squad," which preceded the album, had clearly signaled that Penetration was quickly outgrowing the aesthetic austerity of their Punk origins. And while "Stone Heroes" comes closest to echoing the unadorned fury that made "Don't Dictate" a Punk anthem, overall, the album pays very little heed to Punk orthodoxy. For example, on "Vision," a moody, atmospheric number that eventually mutates into a glammed-up rocker, Penetration seem to explore a darker, almost Post-Punk sound before lapsing into conventional hard-rock histrionics. However, on "Silent Community," perhaps the highlight of the album, Murray & co. hit on an intriguing mix of Punk aggression and New Wave atmospherics, creating a sound that is reminiscent of Blondie's work of the same period but with more grit. All questions of musical style aside, what is undeniable about Penetration's debut album are the consistently brilliant vocal performances by Murray, who, though not as self-consciously arty or experimental as Siouxsie Sioux, possessed one of the great (and incredibly under-appreciated) voices of the Punk / Post-Punk era.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The 13th Floor Elevators- "You're Gonna Miss Me" (1966) Unofficial Video

This mid-sixties Austin garage band, led by the legendary Roky Erickson and featuring the electrified jug playing of Tommy Hall, is pretty much ground zero for the psychedelic rock movement. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to drop acid in Texas, well, here ya go...

Indie Artist Feature: Seeping into Cinemas- 100,000 Times (2011) Bandcamp Link & Videos

From Seeping into Cinemas Website:

"Seeping into Cinemas is the solo project of Dublin musician, Barry O'Brien. After playing in bands on the Dublin independent scene for a number of years, Barry decided the best way to find the sound he was looking for but had yet to find, was to go it alone. So began Seeping Into Cinemas. Initially starting with a few low key  but well-received gigs, Barry then focused his efforts on writing and recording. Holed up at home with a bunch of guitars, microphones and other music-making devices, he began work on what would eventually become his first album. In February 2010, he emerged briefly from recording hibernation with the self-released single 'Dour Hour,' then disappeared again for more writing, rewriting and recording.

The months that followed were full of late nights, obsessive attention to detail, and Ups, downs, and finally in December 2010, completion. In January 2011, Barry called on the mixing skills of Dublin producer Stephen Shannon. Mixing went smoothly and 100,000 Times, the debut Seeping Into Cinemas album was finished. Consisting of ten songs, inhabited with dreamy soundscapes and Barry's whisper quiet voice, 100,000 Times is a melodic and haunting homage to a world full of broken hearted misanthropes and sad souls who dream of escape."

(La) luna Review:

The music of Seeping into Cinemas, the solo project of Dublin-based musician Barry O'Brien, is an evocative mix of dreamy, moody, wonderfully melodic soundscapes that manage to achieve a lush feel despite their spare arrangements and O'Brien's deceptively gentle, almost whispered, vocals, which will instantly remind listeners of Elliott Smith, but subtle ears will also hear the ghost of Big Star's Chris Bell creeping about. It's not by accident that I speak of ghosts in reference to O'Brien's music because on Seeping into Cinemas' debut album, 100,000 Times, there is a gauzy, ghostly sense of isolation at the heart of each track. One of the album's standouts is the brilliantly titled, "Red Words, Full of Promises," a bittersweet mid-temp gem that is suggestive of what The Clientele might have sounded like if they had hailed from Austin, TX. Perhaps my favorite track is "Still Frame from a Sunny Monday," with its austere arrangement and emotionally resigned yet sweetly vulnerable vocals, it is here that the emotional darkness alluded to earlier really becomes evident, and this is what distinguishes Seeping into Cinemas from any number of other bands: it is clear that O'Brien has far more in mind for his listeners than simply crafting low-key confessionals. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mick Ronson- Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1974) MP3 & FLAC -For scurfie-

"There I stood like soap on heat, while blood ran thick past both my quaking feet,
into the Street."

Mick Ronson is easily one of the most underrated musicians of the rock era. A first rate arranger and a sublimely talented multi-instrumentalist whose fiery lead-guitar work for David Bowie's Ziggy-era band The Spiders from Mars proved to be a huge influence on both the Punk and Post-Punk movements of the late-seventies and early eighties, Ronson was a rock 'n' roll careerist, who, much like Bowie, had endured many failures before his star finally began to ascend. Before meeting up with Bowie in 1969 toward the end of the recording sessions for the Space Oddity album, Ronson had paid his dues knocking about in several bands in his native city of Hull, most notably, an R&B-influenced outfit called The Rats who had a few minor brushes with success in London before descending again and forever into obscurity. The story goes that when former Rats band-mate John Cambridge made the trek from London back to Hull to recruit his friend to join Bowie's new backing band, The Hype, Ronson was working as a Parks Department gardener. Understandably reluctant after his previous failures, Ronson was finally persuaded to agree and consummated his legendary musical partnership with Bowie only a few days later on the John Peel radio show. In hindsight, Ronson's influence on Bowie's glam-phase is incalculable, as he not only was the architect (along with Tony Visconti) of the darker, harder-edged sound Bowie adopted beginning with The Man Who Sold the World, but he also co-produced, with Bowie, many of the classic Ziggy-era albums. Following Bowie's sudden retirement of his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego in July, 1973, Ronson, at the behest of Bowie's manager, Tony DeFries, recorded his first solo album, which, if nothing else, clearly demonstrates the extent to which Ronson had a hand in Bowie's distinctive sound. Slaughter on 10th Avenue isn't the kind of solo effort you'd expect from a lead guitarist striking out on his own for the first time; rather, it attempts to present Ronson as a viable pop star in his own right, instead of merely giving him a forum to lay down impressive guitar solos. This is evident from the first song, a cover of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender," which starts out reverentially enough, but soon converts this gentle (or sappy depending on your taste) chestnut into an over-the-top Glam-Rock power ballad, complete with Ronson's histrionic Bowie-esque vocals and dramatic Ziggy-style guitar work. It really should be a mess, but the song is so lovingly executed and sumptuously recorded that it simply works, and works well. Things get even more interesting on the Bowie & Ronson penned "Growing Up and I'm Fine," which listeners will either love or hate depending on their tolerance for (or love of) Glam-Rock excess. A fey take-off on Springsteen, it's the kind of song Bowie excelled at on albums such as Aladdin Sane, and though Ronson does a credible job on vocals, it's impossible not to wonder what Bowie might have done with the song; nonetheless, it's a great, glittery three-minute ride. And then there is "Music Is Lethal," another Bowie-penned tune that starts out sounding a little like "The Port of Amsterdam," but soon develops into a full-fledged Jacques Brel meets Scott Walker meets Bowie Glam-opera. Overall, the production on Slaughter on 10th Avenue is consistently gorgeous and Ronno's guitar-work is spectacular (as usual), and while this is indeed a strange album that ultimately pales in comparison to the Bowie albums it, in many ways, tries to mimic, it still manages to feel like an essential document of a brief but inspired moment when pop hooks and high art could be taken in a single dose.

The Raincoats- "Don't Be Mean" Video (1996)

A bitter pop confection circa The Raincoats' brief 1990s Kurt Cobain-induced re-union:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #19: Various Artists- WarfRat Tales: Unabridged (1983) MP3 & FLAC

"The seas and the trees calling me. She's a river between day and night. I'm looking for her light, creeping coastline of lights."

At the dawn of the eighties, the L.A. underground music scene was comprised of a heady mix of bands and styles that included punk, post-punk, cow-punk, neo-psych, power-pop, jangle-pop, rockabilly, and everything in between. In addition to its quite unprecedented musical diversity, what also set this underground scene apart from others before it and those since was the genre-defying camaraderie between the various bands involved. As such, it was not unusual to see someone like Chris D. of The Flesh Eaters- ferocious purveyors of an exceedingly dark blues-punk hybrid that made them legends among the hardcore crowd- befriend and support a band such as The Dream Syndicate, who were in the process of spearheading a psych-revival that would come to be known as the Paisley Underground. Many of these relationships were forged through shared ties with the indie record labels that mushroomed in and around the scene whose rosters often reflected the amazing variety of the L.A. underground itself, a phenomenon that helped give rise to the era of the indie compilation as the best way to promote the music. A storied example of this was Warfrat Records, a tiny artist-run label, whose recordings were made in a (literally) makeshift studio called Lyceum Sound, which was actually a sound-proofed two-car garage (we're talking egg-cartons on the walls here) that had been rented out by members of The Last as a rehearsal space. The "studio" was originally conceived as a much preferred return to sonic austerity for The Last after having had their sound subjected to the sterilizing effects of the professional recording process on their debut LP, L.A. Explosion!  Eventually, Lyceum Sound played host to bands such as The Gun Club, Rain Parade, The Long Ryders and Savage Republic to name but a few, all of whom engaged in something like recorded rehearsals. As The Last's manager Gary Stewart remembers, the WarfRat record label was born out of necessity: "I didn't so much dream up the WarfRat label as I was forced to start it, as a way of releasing a single [...] that was getting some airplay on Rodney Bingenheimer's Sunday night radio show." The compilation WarfRat Tales was intended as a way to promote many of the bands who regularly passed through Lyceum Sound as well as to pay off some bills (according to Stewart, the album accomplished only one of these objectives). The album itself is one of the better comps to emanate from the L.A. underground, and has the added advantage of being primarily comprised of unique "demo" performances that are often superior to the more polished versions available elsewhere. The opener, "Try to Rise," a creepy, campy psychedelic rocker by The Last that sounds a bit like Frankenfurter of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fronting The Doors, sets the tone for this consistently great and intensely moody set of songs. Another highlight is "Stop the Clock" by the Earwigs, a strange mash-up of punk, ska and early new-wave that functions as a tension-filled time-capsule of cold war paranoia. WarfRat Tales also features some wonderfully scruffy cuts from Paisley Underground mainstays Rain Parade, including a stunning rendition of "This Can't Be Today," later re-recorded for their debut LP, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. Perhaps the most essential track is "Creeping Coastlines of Light" by The Leaving Trains, a twangy, moody, transcendent slow-burner that is the equal of anything recorded by the scene's more well-known "roots" bands such as The Long Ryders and True West. WarfRat Tales is worth revisting because it offers a significant glimpse into an amazingly vibrant music scene long since gone; however, what makes it truly distinctive is the way its austerely-recorded tracks capture the passion and camaraderie that made the L.A. underground what it was.

Mark Lanegan- "Ugly Sunday" Video (1989)

Any other Mark Lanegan or Screaming Trees fans out there?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A New Tab: Music Submissions

A while back (a long while back actually), I made an attempt at an "independent artist" series, but for a number of reasons, it didn't work out. I've decided to revisit this idea, though it will be called a "feature" instead of a series. But first, some disclaimers:

First of all, I can only be post a small percentage of the music submitted to me, so if you send me something and you never hear back, please don't take it personally. If I could do this full-time, I'd create a blog solely devoted to this type of thing; unfortunately, I have to earn a living, which doesn't leave a lot of time for music blogging.

Secondly, I am planning on posting this new feature either on (La) luna or Plastic Palace People, or occasionally both.

So, check out the new tab on the upper right-hand side of the tab-bar and if you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me

The Soft Boys- Underwater Moonlight...And How It Got There (1980) Expanded Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC -For sradams777-

"In the primitive jungle of love, it's funny what you're capable of."

The Soft Boys' debut, A Can of Bees, is the sound of a band joyously sneering in the face of both commercial and creative expectations. Wedding Power-Pop and neo-psychedelia to the aesthetic minimalism of the Post-Punk movement then in full-swing, The Soft Boys were simultaneously anachronistic and visionary, yet sublimely unconcerned with (or blissfully unaware of) the implications of either. While their debut consistently refracted their Jangle-Pop tendencies through the twin-prisms of a cheeky brand of experimentalism and a blunt Punk sensibility, their follow-up and criminally under-appreciated masterpiece, Underwater Moonlight, refines these to some degree and, in the process, clearly sketched the blueprint for the countless neo-psych bands that would spring up in the years to come. It has been famously said of The Velvet Underground's debut that only a thousand people initially bought the album and every one of them ended up starting a band; something similar could also be said of Underwater Moonlight without any fear of lapsing into exaggeration.  On the opening track, "I Wanna Destroy You," The Soft Boys' create a unique hybrid sound that can best be described as "jangle-punk"; contrasting Robyn Hitchcock's biting lyrics, such as "They feed your pride with boredom and they lead you on to war," with irresistible pop-song hooks and harmonized choruses, it's hard to imagine how profoundly unprecedented this song must have sounded in 1980. The next song, "Kingdom of Love," is a stunner; presaging the jagged Funk of Solid Gold-era Gang of Four, while also managing to integrate Nuggets-style Garage-Rock with a liberal dose of Syd Barrett added in for good measure, the song is easily one of Hitchcock's finest as a Soft Boy. Perhaps the most obvious influence on bands such as R.E.M. and The Three O'Clock is "Queen of Eyes," a marvelous piece of Byrds-inspired Jangle-Pop that is one of the best examples of neo-psychedelia I have ever come across. To say that Underwater Moonlight is one of the most influential albums of the Post-Punk era is both an understatement and an irony given The Soft Boys' decidedly un-Post-Punk tendency to overtly incorporate sixties-era influences into their sound. While at the time, this approach cost them any hope of commercial or critical success in response to their albums, it is hard to imagine the Athens and Paisley underground music scenes growing to prominence in the early eighties without the influence of The Soft Boys' groundbreaking work.

Blur- "The Universal" Video (1995)

Viddy well brothers, viddy well! Oh yes, and there's a massive Blur post in the works too :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tim Buckley Series, #7: Tim Buckley- The Copenhagen Tapes (2000) MP3 & FLAC

"Just like a buzzin' fly, I come into your life. Now I float away like honey in the sun."

Recorded during the same tour that produced the sublime Dream Letter: Live in London 1968, Tim Buckley was in fine vocal form for this October 1968 concert in Copenhagen, Denmark. As was the case throughout his fall 1968 European tour, Buckley was operating with only part of his formidable backing band: percussionist Carter C.C. Collins and stand-up bass player John Miller could not make the trip overseas due to the tour's financial constraints. As a result, and thoroughly in keeping with the improvisatory Jazz-influenced approach of Buckley's music at this point, "local" players stepped in to fill these spots at each stop on the tour. Whereas the show documented on Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 saw The Pentangle's Danny Thompson take over stand-up bass duties to great effect, the concert documented on The Copenhagen Tapes features no less than European Jazz legend Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who, as a teenager, was so esteemed in Jazz circles that he was extended an invitation to join the Count Basie Orchestra of all things, which, amazingly, he refused. Also present for the Copenhagen concert was Buckley's inimitable sideman Lee Underwood, whose beautiful electric guitar-work, though completely improvised, always functioned as something of a harmonic anchor to Buckley's fearless vocal peregrinations. Buckley's approach to live performances at this point in his career was profoundly influenced by experimental Jazz; as Underwood explains, "For better or worse, Tim gave me and all his other musicians complete freedom. That is, he did not hire us as sidemen to simply play memorized parts. He hired us for our unique approaches to his music. We didn't have any input into the composing part, but the playing was ours alone, nearly all of it improvised." The Copenhagen Tapes is comprised of four lengthy tracks, the first of which, the 21 minute "I Don't Need It to Rain," supposedly intended as a vocal warm-up for Buckley, is nothing less than a tour-de-force. A bluesy slow-burner that finds Buckley frequently exploring the upper range of his seemingly elastic voice, the song also features some great ensemble work from vibe master David Friedman and Underwood. However, it is on the band's gorgeous rendition of "Buzzin' Fly" from Happy/Sad that Underwood's masterful contributions really step forward. Simultaneously carrying the melody and pushing the song beyond its Folk-Rock origins, Underwood's Telecaster weaves a fuzzy web of chiming notes for Buckley's soaring vocals to momentarily embrace and then transcend. In terms of fidelity, The Copenhagen Tapes is not the best-sounding Buckley live recording available; however, it captures him at the height of his improvisational powers, stretching his songs to their compositional limits and beyond, and for this, it is qualifies as essential Tim.

Penetration- "Life's a Gamble" (1978) Live, Reading Festival

A vastly underrated Punk band featuring the amazing Pauline Murray:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

T. Rex- Electric Warrior (1971) 30th Anniversary Edition / Electric Warrior Sessions (1999) MP3 & FLAC

"I danced myself right out the womb. Is it strange to dance so soon?"

Music scenes rarely originate with the release of a single album, and in the case of Glam-Rock, there had certainly been some earlier indications that something new and distinctive was on the horizon, most notably in the form of two Tony Visconti-produced albums released in 1970: T. Rex's self-titled  entry into the arena of electric rock and David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World. According to Visconti, "Glam-rock was a name invented by the press to describe what artists and producers had already created. It was a crazy period musically and dressing up and wearing make-up was a great form of self-expression. David Bowie and Marc Bolan were the first artists to create the music and the dress code."  However, it wasn't until  T. Rex's Electric Warrior appeared in September 1971 that the U.K. Glam scene "came out of the closet" if you will, functioning as a flamboyantly subversive antidote to the dwindling relevance of psychedelia and the painfully non-ironic pretentiousness of the Prog-Rock movement. The first glimmer of the "T. Rextasy" phenomenon that would sweep the U.K. the following year was the unanticipated smash success of the single "Hot Love," which Bolan and percussionist Mickey Finn had recorded with a number of studio musicians filling in as a backing band in order to further develop T. Rex's newly-minted electric sound. With a number-one record now in his pocket, Bolan took this band back into the studio (actually, several studios) to record what would eventually become Electric Warrior. Much as he had done for Bowie (with significant help from Mick Ronson) the previous year, Visconti set about creating a heavier, fuller, sultrier sound for T. Rex, employing strings (which he himself composed), multi-tracked and back-masked guitar solos, and the peerless backing vocals of ex-Turtles Flo & Eddie. The album's iconic cover, designed by Hipgnosis (who would later do the artwork for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon), features Bolan in dark silhouette, standing in front of an amp stack while blissfully bending a note on his Les Paul, everything emanating an aura of gold-dust. The cover could not have been more indicative of the music etched in the record's grooves or more prescient of the success that lay ahead for the band. Previous to Electric Warrior, Bolan's work often had an overriding escapist feel to it (this is also true of Bowie's early work), and while the album does carry over certain aspects of the trippy acoustic aesthetic of Tyrannosaurus Rex, it is, overall, a much darker affair than anything Bolan had previously recorded. This new sound was more or less created during the recording of the album's lead single "Get It On," which begins like a slow-motion Chuck Berry number, complete with a piano glissando contributed by Rick Wakeman. Visconti's slightly fuzzy production lends the song a sweaty sexuality that, despite the occasional nonsensicality of the lyrics, renders it as a timeless paean to the joys of shagging. What should also be mentioned is the beautifully understated groove that comprises the song; Bolan's short, sharp guitar bursts and seductive, whispery vocals belie the fact that "Get It On" is a rocker at heart. "Cosmic Dancer," on the other hand, is, in some ways, a throwback to A Beard of Stars-era Tyrannosaurus Rex, but with some significant differences, such as Bolan's vocals, which are much more subtle and emotionally raw than what is found in his earlier work. Also, Visconti's addition of strings gives the song a grandiose effect that borders dangerously on cheese at times, but Bolan's wistful acoustic strumming ultimately keeps it centered. One of the most overlooked songs on Electric Warrior but one that certainly presages the D.I.Y. music revolution that would descend on the U.K. in the late seventies is "Rip Off." Featuring an uncharacteristically aggressive vocal performance from Bolan, in which he angrily (and often nonsensically) sings through a laundry-list of stream-of-consciousness grievances, this isn't a song that operates so much on message as it does on the energy with which the lyrics are delivered. While the arrangement is far too polished for what would later be termed Punk-Rock, there is little doubt that T. Rex was a key influence on bands such as The Ramones and their progeny. While T. Rex's next album, The Slider, may be the best distillation of their early-seventies sound, Electric Warrior crackles with the energy of a new-found vision and the significance of having given birth to one of the most influential movements of the rock era.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

T. Rex- "Get It On" (1971) Live (sort of) on Top of the Pops

Amazing video quality, this. Christmas 1971 was looking pretty good:

The Soft Boys- A Can of Bees (1979) / Invisible Hits (1983) MP3 & FLAC

"And darkness is the shore of light, the truth is framed with lies. And a girl can smile sweetly though her mouth is stuffed with flies."

The Soft Boys, originally formed as Dennis and The Experts at the height of the U.K. Punk movement, were a band seemingly constructed out of contrarian tendencies, for, quite of of step with the musical zeitgeist of the late seventies, they dressed their brand of Post-Punk in the kind of late-sixties psych-rock and Brit-Rock signifiers that were anathema to the "three chords or less" minimalism then in vogue. What wasn't so obvious at the time of the release of their debut, A Can of Bees, was that Psychedelic revivalism would blossom just a few years later in the U.K., U.S. (most notably in Athens, GA. and Los Angeles, CA.), New Zealand, and Australia. As such, there can be little doubt that The Soft Boys played a major role in connecting the dots between Post-Punk and neo-psychedelia; as head Soft Boy Robyn Hitchcock has noted, "Big Star and us were the rickety bridge between The Byrds and R.E.M."  Hitchcock's "rickety bridge" metaphor is both apt and a little modest. Apt because while neither band had any commercial success (though in Big Star's case, this was largely due to poor promotion), they both exerted a huge influence on the musicians who peopled the early-eighties psyche-rock resurgence. Modest because both bands demand to be heard on their own terms, as their music, in and of itself, is just as distinctive and influential as the music that inspired them. In the case of A Can of Bees, this is a sound as likely to indulge in the jagged abrasiveness of Post-Punk as it is the Jangle-Pop that would become more prominent on the band's second album and undisputed masterpiece, Underwater Moonlight. Opening with the bluesy swagger of "Give It to The Soft Boys," what stands out immediately is the dual guitar attack of Hitchcock and Kimberly Rew, which, while certainly echoing a band such as Television, seems to burn along according to its own slightly-skewed logic. The Soft Boys' unique intersection of influences is clearly on display in "Human Music," which reveals their Jangle-Pop roots, but passes this sound through a darker, dirtier, less polished prism that provides a perfect musical context for Hitchcock's Lou Reed-inspired vocals. R.E.M., were you listening? And then there's "Sandra's Having Her Brain Out," an unlikely but brilliant combination of Post-Punk cynicism and Beatlesque vocal harmonies. An album such as A Can of Bees couldn't have been more out of place in 1979, the same year Joy Division released their debut, Unknown Pleasures. And while The Soft Boys' debut garnered barely a murmur commercially, its influence continues to be felt thirty years later.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #14: Allinson / Brown- A V I (1998) MP3 & FLAC

Before his legendary work on Talk Talk's two enduring masterpieces, Spirit of Eden  and Laughing Stock, as well as Mark Hollis' eponymous solo album, Phill Brown had enjoyed a long and storied career as a studio engineer and producer, working with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, Bob Marley, and Roxy Music, to name but a few. While Brown's background suggested a fine rock-music pedigree, the nature of his work with Hollis was quite different. By the time of their first collaboration on Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk had relinquished any interest in traditional song structure, and Hollis' focus in particular had evolved from complex yet conventional sound layering methods to attempting a free association technique, which he described as "sound collage," where organically recorded sound fragments are woven, during the editing process, into a sonic whole-cloth.  This approach would eventually inform Paul Webb and Lee Harris' .O.Rang project as well as Phill Brown's post-Talk Talk collaboration with visual artist Dave Allinson on a brilliant piece of ambient minimalism called A V I. Half of this album's four tracks are devoted to a two-part composition bearing the album's title that was originally conceived as an accompaniment to a video installation . "A V I- Pt. I" is a nearly twenty-minute sound scape, which bears no trace of song structure or any recognizable pop elements and manages to capture much of the same ambiance that made Brown's work with Talk Talk so distinctive. Combining eerie atmospherics with a diversity of organic ambient sounds, the piece is a stunningly elegant journey into the beauty of sounds untethered to formal structure yet somehow still suggesting movement through a composed space. Quite jarringly at first, "A V I- Pt. II" is built around a sumptuously bass-driven rhythmic pattern that, while offering a more structured feel than Pt. I, is just as evocative of the beauty inherent in individual sounds themselves. Another memorable contribution is "Piano" written and performed by Mark Hollis (credited here as John Cope). The best way to describe this lovely, elegiac composition for solo piano is to quote the man himself: "Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note- and don't play one note unless you've got a reason to play it." While many discuss A V I  in terms of the fine line it walks between musicality and fragmented atonality, part of what makes the album so singular and worth revisiting regularly is the way it does manage to be consistently engaging in a musical sense. Fragile, a tad ephemeral, but never less than profound, A V I  is an obscure gem to be sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Robyn Hitchcock- "Devil's Radio" (2001) from Storefront Hitchcock

Here's a warm-up for some Soft Boys just around the corner:

John Maus- We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (2011) / Love Is Real (2007) MP3 & FLAC

"And this is the time to gather at tables aloud with memory of our lost play
and silent pageantry."

A brief glance through some of the critical reviews of John Maus' three albums, and it becomes clear that he is a polarizing figure, inspiring either condescension or adulation with very few reviews falling in between. While some describe the music as featureless or derivative, others characterize Maus' sound as opening new vistas of possibility in pop music. In actuality, Maus embraces a gloomy, Lo-Fi aesthetic, which is largely constructed with vintage analogue synthesizers; however, he is not shy about introducing conventional pop elements into the mix, but does so in a way that refuses the glossy seductions and easy resolutions that straightforward pop deals in. On his second LP, Love Is Real, Maus approximates the overly bright yet wafer thin sound of eighties synth-pop but strips it of all its clarity by throwing it down a well of hazy reverb and by using his sometimes clumsy and often exaggerated doom-filled Ian Curtis croon to lend the songs a dark, claustrophobic feel. For example, on "Love Letters from Hell," a cheap drum machine and strangely funereal synth-based organ effect conspire to create a context for Maus' Dubby Post-Punk vocals that is equal parts Vangelis, Joy Division, and Lee Perry. While Maus' third album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, does not stray far from its predecessor in terms of inspiration, it does demonstrate greater sonic depth, superior song-writing, and a slightly better drum machine. "...And the Rain" offers an interesting study in Maus' method; taking the most banal elements of cheesy eighties synth-pop, burying them in layers of foggy reverb, and juxtaposing them to his throaty vocals dripping with both sentimentality and irony, Maus approximates what Stephin Merritt might have sounded like fronting B-Movie in 1983. Nevertheless, there are moments on We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves where Maus transcends his deconstuctive retro-mode and points the way toward something new and intriguing. "Believer," the album's lead single, is one of these moments. Sounding a bit more produced than the rest of the album, the song's refracted Gregorian chant-style vocals provide an epic sense of depth, making Maus' stream of consciousness lyrics sound like echoes of something profound, and the procession of indelible hooks makes "Believer" easily the most memorable track on the album. Maus' music may not be as transformational as he wants it to be or, perhaps, as we want it to be, but given half a chance, it becomes clear that he is mining some interesting musical territory here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

David Bowie- Space Oddity (1969) 40th Anniversary Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"I'm the cream of the great utopia dream, and you're the gleam in depths of your
banker's spleen."

David Bowie (aka David Jones) had been struggling for years to achieve some semblance of commercial and artistic success as a musician, a journey that included stints as a blues-singer for mod-rock groups such as The King Bees and The Mannish Boys, a campy dance-hall dandy with a taste for Anthony Newley, and a Dylan-esque folksinger. While all of these musical incarnations failed miserably, it was, strangely enough, Bowie's participation in an avante-garde mime troupe that put him on the pathway to the kind of success he so badly craved. In 1968, now a solo mime artist, Bowie opened a show for Marc Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex, and in the process, crossed paths with Bolan's producer Tony Visconti. This was, of course, a fortuitous meeting because Visconti would prove to be instrumental in shaping the careers of both Bolan and Bowie, as well as helping to foster the birth of the Glam-Rock movement that would make them both superstars by 1972. Bowie had recorded a self-titled debut album for Deram in 1967, but when it failed to chart, his days at the label were numbered, and he was unceremoniously dropped in early 1968. Despite this turn of events, he had written a good deal of new material by the time he entered the studio in 1969 on Mercury Records' dime to record his second album, now with Visconti as his producer. Among the new songs was "Space Oddity," which was obviously influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the impending Apollo moon landing. Bowie had originally written and recorded the song for a promotional film called Love You Till Tuesday, which ended up staying in the can until 1984.

While the song was deemed worthy (or timely) enough to be chosen, previous to the Mercury recording sessions, as the lead-single for the new album, Visconti reportedly hated the song and had no interest in producing it, which is why his assistant, Gus Dudgeon, who would later become Elton John's producer, was pressed into service. The Dudgeon-produced version is a dark, lush, and dramatic epic that quickly transcended the initial impression by critics that it was a novelty song. Central to the song's success are the haunting "space" effects provided by a mellotron and a pocket electronic organ called a stylophone, Bowie's now-iconic vocal performance, and the distinctive prog-folk arrangement. Not only was "Space Oddity" Bowie's first hit (top five in the U.K.), but it also, in many ways, provided the blueprint for his Ziggy Stardust persona and his ongoing thematic preoccupation with social outcasts and aliens. Originally titled David Bowie in the U.K. (inviting confusion with his identically-titled Deram debut), Man of Words / Man of Music in the U.S. and renamed Space Oddity for its re-issue in 1972, Bowie's second album is an edgy dystopian artistic breakthrough, which, though suffering a bit from a lack of stylistic cohesion, offers several glimpses of the genius Bowie would demonstrate in his work throughout the seventies. The approach to recording the album was a bit haphazard, but proved to be a valuable learning experience for all involved; as Visconti recalls, "we had no idea what we were doing. It was all over the map. But we met Mick Ronson at the very end of making that album and allowed him to educate us." In addition to the title track, Space Oddity features several gems, including "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed," a proto-Glam kiss-off (both stylistically and lyrically) to what Bowie took to be the "lock-step" mentality hiding beneath the surface of various late-sixties counter-cultural ideologies. At the outset, the song sounds as though it might be an idealistic ballad, as Bowie strums his acoustic 12-string and, with a heavily reverbed voice, sings to a pretty girl in a window. However, when the bass and drums join the mix, things turn dark, as the song transforms into a snarling indictment of class from the perspective of a social outcast. The album concludes with another epic, "Memory of a Free Festival," which, in effect, closes the door on the last traces of the hippie-influenced utopianism that had preoccupied much of Bowie's earlier work. While the song recounts, in beautifully idealized terms, his first appearance at Glastonbury Festival, it maintains a funereal tone until the cathartic fade/chorus of "The sun machine is coming down / And we're gonna have a party" brings the song to a powerfully ironic conclusion. Upon its release, Space Oddity garnered a number of ecstatic reviews, but, in the eyes of Mercury, the album failed to deliver on the promise of its lead single, as the tracks recorded with Visconti are far from accessible and quite gloomy in tone. As a result, they failed to properly promote the album, so Bowie's commercial fortunes once again took a tumble.  It was to be on the next album, The Man Who Sold the World, that Bowie, Visconti and Ronson would craft the sound that helped change the face of rock music in the seventies.

A Few File Upgrades to Earlier Posts

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the silence; I've been working on a huge Bowie post, which will be up shortly. Meanwhile, I want to alert you to a few upgrades I've made to some previous posts.

For the Warpaint- Exquisite Corpse EP, I have added a CD-sourced FLAC option, and I have upgraded the MP3 option from 256kbps to 320 kbps

For Mariee Sioux- Faces in the Rocks, I have added a CD-sourced FLAC option, and I have upgraded the MP3 option from 256kbps to 320kbp

These are both great albums, so check them out if you haven't heard them.

p.s. The blog needs more members so please hit the new "join this site" button if you haven't already. I really do appreciate this (though I realize some of you cannot do so for various reasons)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paisley Underground Series, #18: The Chesterfield Kings- Night of the Living Eyes: 1979-1983 (1989) / Here Are the Chesterfield Kings (1982) MP3 & FLAC

"Cry all night girl, I won't care, you can't hurt me, I won't be there."

Since its original release in 1972, Nuggets, the legendary compilation of mid-sixties Garage-Rock, has served as a fertile inspiration to any number of underground music scenes ranging from hardcore Punk to psychedelic revivalism. One reason for this is the raw energy and D.Y.I. ethos that characterized bands such as The Electric Prunes, The Standells, and The Seeds, which, to some extent, created the blueprint for both the Punk and Post-Punk movements a decade later (it's no coincidence that Nuggets was curated by future Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye). During the late seventies and early eighties, Los Angeles functioned as something of an underground epicenter for not only Punk, but psyche-rock as well, while the east coast played host to a major Garage-Rock revival spear-headed by bands such as The Lyres, The Fuzztones, and a Rochester band called The Chesterfield Kings. The band was conceived by Greg Prevost, a music journalist and record collector who had previously fronted a garage-punk band called Distorted Levels. In their original incarnation, The Chesterfield Kings went to great lengths to recreate the sound, look, and feel of original Nuggets-era bands, even going so far as to press limited copies of their early singles to render them just as collectable as those of the bands they were emulating. Until releasing their second album, Stop!, The Chesterfield kings were primarily a covers band, but one specializing in only the most esoteric Garage-Rock obscurities. As such, on their early singles, which were eventually collected on Night of the Living Eyes: 1979-1983, and their debut LP, Here Are The Chesterfield Kings, the band is able to consistently avoid sounding derivative because the material is, by and large, unfamiliar and the performances are informed with Punk-inspired fury and a meticulous attention to mid-sixties-era authenticity. The tracks comprising the first half of Night of the Living Eyes 1979-1983 are the band's initial pre-debut LP releases, which tend to showcase a more basic, punk-influenced sound than their later work. For example, on "Exit 9," a cover of a long-forgotten Garage-Rock gem by The Heard, The Chesterfield Kings manage to capture the grimy psychedelic feel of the original while injecting a little Punk rage for good measure, and when all is said and done, it's their version that sounds definitive. While their debut LP, Here Are The Chesterfield Kings, turns down the Punk quotient a notch or two, the results are no less impressive, as on The Turtles' "Outside Chance," which features razor-sharp guitar notes and sneering vocals that lend the song a little more bite than The Turtles were able to give it. Over the years, many have written off The Chesterfield Kings as being too derivative and one-note, but where a lot of their contemporaries eventually abandoned Garage-Rock for a more conventional, and thoroughly forgettable, hard-rock sound, The Chesterfield Kings have, for the most part, stayed true to the rich tradition that provided them with their original inspiration.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Verve- "Slide Away" (1992) Live, Camden

In its heyday, this band put its contemporaries to shame, and yes, this includes Radiohead, Blur, Pulp, etc. Verve live was nothing less than a fucking religious experience.

If You're Having Trouble Accessing Megaupload Link Pages, Here's Why

Hello dear readers,

It has come to my attention that the link protection service,, is down, and has been so since yesterday. As a result, when you click on one of the download links on this and any other blogs that protect links using this service, you get the dreaded "unable to connect" page. Since I have no way of knowing when or even if this problem will be rectified, I am considering switching to another link protection service. Please be patient and also let me know if you are experiencing this difficulty in accessing the download links :)

UPDATE: it seems that is having intermittent server problems but seems to be up and running now. If you run into problems downloading. Try again a little later.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Juli@n Cop3- Sk3LLingt0n (1989) / Sk3LLingt0n 2 (1993) MP3 & FLAC

"Rattle my chains, shoot my brains, if I can't have you."

Skellington was born out of the frustration and disappointment Julian Cope had experienced throughout the process of recording My Nation Underground, his second LP for Island records, an album the record execs apparently hoped would raise Cope's commercial prospects. The sessions were expensive and badly over-produced,  leading Cope to reportedly express his hatred for the project before it was even finished. Toward the end of these recording sessions, Cope and a group of musicians who had been working with him on the album spent a weekend on the sly in the same studio using Island's money to record another album, which Cope felt better represented his artistic intentions. In reaction to the sonic bluster of the "official" album, Cope set about recording a minimalist, primarily acoustic set of demos that, while sounding under-developed and even fragmentary in places, is extremely listenable and far more worthy of his singular genius. The lead track, "Doomed," is a perfect example; it features Cope repetitively plucking a bass-note lick on a rickety-sounding acoustic guitar while keeping his vocals in the lower range. However, what pulls the song together is a simple electric organ melody that repeats throughout, lending the song both a psychedelic ambiance and touch of Syd Barrett-style whimsy. Another song indicative of the strange pleasures this improvised recording session produced is the acoustic ditty "Robert Mitchum." Originally penned in the late seventies with then-band-mate Ian McCulloch, the song finds Cope in fine, slightly ironic voice as he sings his ode of admiration to the movie star. The session ends with the brilliant "Commin' Soon," which might have been a wistful ballad had Cope not chosen to sing it as a distorted, high-pitched confessional that sounds reminiscent of any number of rock star casualties. Needless to say, Island was less than thrilled about the session and refused to release it, especially as the label still had big plans for My Nation Underground. Despite Island's accusation that he was breaching the contract he had signed with them, Cope decided to release the session, now titled Skellington, on a tiny indie label. Four years later, he revisited the Skellington concept by recording another set of songs under similar conditions, which yielded Skellington 2. While not nearly as essential as Cope's best work, the Skellington albums are deserving of their comparison to other legendary pieces of rock eccentricity such as Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs and Skip Spence's Oar, both of which were clearly inspirations for the Skellington sessions.

John Maus- "The Believer" Video (2011)

Keyboard player for Animal Collective, Panda Bear and Haunted Graffiti with some lush, lo-fi ear candy:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tim Buckley Series, #6: Tim Buckley- Goodbye and Hello (1967) MP3 & FLAC

"Though you have forgotten all of our rubbish dreams, I find myself searching through the ashes of our ruins."

If Tim Buckley's eponymous debut album  bore, too distinctly, the imprint of Elektra's desire to frame him as a baroque folk-singer with commercial aspirations (though ironically the album was all but ignored upon its release), then Buckley's second LP, Goodbye and Hello, offers a first glimmer of clarity into the restless, complicated, and singular artistic vision he was quickly developing. Buckley was all of twenty when he recorded this album, less than two years removed from playing with some high-school buddies in a band called The Bohemians. As was often the case from album to album during Buckley's career, the artistic leap between his debut and Goodbye and Hello was significant. This was due, in part, to Elektra's generous decision (given the commercial failure of the first album) to give Buckley and his "Recording Supervisor," Jerry Yester, who had previously manned the production booth for The Association, full artistic freedom in the studio. However, just as important to the success of the album was Buckley's personal growth both as a singer (he had developed an amazing vocal range, including a beautiful falsetto) and as a songwriter (he had already begun to abandon the conventions of the Folk-Rock genre he was identified with). Thematically, Goodbye and Hello traverses much darker territory than its precursor by offering a mix of political songs such as "No Man Can Find the War," a lovely pysche-folk Vietnam War protest song that begins ominously with a bomb blast effect and features a beautifully understated vocal performance by Buckley, and soul-baring introspective songs such as the album's indisputable masterpiece, "Phantasmagoria in Two," an infinitely haunting song with the feel of an Elizabethan ballad that explores the kind of fear and distrust that often kills love in its infancy. Although the live version of this song on Dream Letter: Live in London 1968  is arguably more powerful, the studio version has a languid, almost eerie feel that renders it just as essential. Another highlight is "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain," which manages to capture the frenetic energy of Buckley's live work while subtly pointing the way to his more mature compositions. The song features some dynamic guitar playing from Buckley as he passionately sings to his ex-wife and child (yes, I mean Jeff), trying to explain, or better yet defend, his absence in their lives. Elektra saw big things for Buckley, so much so that the label's owner, Jac Holzman, rented a billboard on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood to promote the album. While Goodbye and Hello enjoyed only moderate commercial success, it raised the ante on the expectations put on Buckley by his record company and by his fans. As Holzman put it: "[T]he combined effect of his words, his music, his passion, his persona struck a particular resonance [....] He could express anguish that wasn't negative." The result of this was the emergence of Buckley's iconoclastic side that fueled his overt rejection of his status as a folk-singer/hippie-generation spokesman. Nowhere is this more clear than in his discussion of Goodbye and Hello's epic title track: "I just hate the motherfucker. It's like, 'OK motherfuckers, you want a protest song, here it is.' They were bugging the hell out of me so I figured, just this once, and then I wouldn't have to do it again."

Proposing a Slight Change in Plans: I need Some Darkness with My Summer

Hello dear readers,

As you may or may not know or remember, I had announced a series based on the Australian psych-rock band The Church, which was supposed to start after the impending conclusion of the Talk Talk Series. While I still intend to start such a series a little later in the summer (toward the end of the Tim Buckley series), I'm just not feeling it at the moment, and consequently, I want to propose a Velvet Underground series. I'm envisioning 25 posts that will include lossless selections from the Velvets' official and bootleg discographies, Lou Reed's considerable discography, John Cale, Maureen Tucker, Nico, and various collaborations and side projects. Don't get me wrong; I love The Church and I have some rare surprises planned for that series, but at this point in time, I feel like living with the Velvets for a while. Care to join me?

Lou and Nico making the most of a summer afternoon

Iggy Pop- "Lust for Life" (1977) Live in Manchester

The original punk: Mr. Osterberg in a sublimely wrecked state post-Stooges

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pete Shelley- XL1 (1983) / Heaven & the Sea (1986) MP3 & FLAC -For Andie James-

"You and I will never change. Though we're different, we'll remain the same. 
Love's devoid of reason anyway."

On his unexpected solo debut, Homosapien, Pete Shelley largely abandoned any trace of the guitar-heavy punk-pop of his previous band, the Buzzcocks, instead building the album's sound out of a unique combination of electronic instruments and acoustic 12-string guitar. While this stemmed partly from his desire to break all ties with his former band, it was also a re-visitation of his original interest in Electronic music. However, on his second LP, XL1, Shelley decided to re-introduce electric guitar into the mix, and the result is a wonderfully edgy and claustrophobic electronic-rock hybrid that manages to build on the strengths of its predecessor while moving into even darker emotional territory. From the beginning of his career as a songwriter, Shelley had nurtured a lyrical preoccupation with the idea of unbridgeable emotional isolation, such as his classic Buzzcocks composition, "Ever Fallen in Love": "You spurn my natural emotions / You make me feel like dirt / And I'm hurt / And if I start a commotion / I run the risk of losing you / And that's worse." While there is still a glimmer of faith (albeit a masochistic one) in the possibility of love in the preceding lyrics, on XL1, the emotional climate is one of cold pessimism. For example, on the infectiously dark "Telephone Operator," perhaps the pinnacle of Shelley's solo career, Shelley introduces heavily distorted guitar bursts into an arrangement that borrows heavily from Kraut-Rockers such as Kraftwerk; lyrically, the song sets the stage for the entire album, as it establishes the theme of isolation on several levels in the form of a lonely drunk trying to seduce a disembodied (and emotionally disconnected) voice on the phone. Shelley also explores the sense of isolation within relationships as on "You Know Better Than This," which contrasts his ironic, almost tongue-in-cheek vocals and faceless synth-dominated arrangement with lyrics alternating between professions of devotion and bitter musings about the inevitability of emotional stagnation. It would be three years before Shelley would issue his third (and final) solo album, Heaven & the Sea, which dials down the dance rhythms significantly and suffers greatly for it. It seems Shelley is going for something more reflective on this album, and while songs such as "On Your Own" and "Life Without Reason" have their charms, overall, the album ends up sounding a little too glossy (thanks to Stephen Hague's production). As a result, Heaven & the Sea has not aged nearly as well as Shelley's earlier solo albums.

Pete Shelley- "Telephone Operator" Video (1983)

Some dark and edgy synth-pop that somehow hasn't dated a bit...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Talk Talk Series, #13: Talk Talk- After the Flood / New Grass / Ascension Day (1991) Limited Edition (3 Discs) MP3 & FLAC

"Thirsting, within without, sighted, weeded, how they run, slain in number."

Talk Talk consistently cultivated a strained relationship with the promotional side of the music business; from the early battles they fought with EMI over their increasingly unconventional (and sometimes downright iconoclastic) stance on the legitimacy of music videos  to their retirement as a live band after The Colour of Spring tour  to their initial refusal to release singles for their last two albums (they eventually acquiesced), Mark Hollis was always a believer in allowing the albums to speak for themselves. The band's original intention for the largely improvised masterpiece Spirit of Eden  was to do no promotion whatsoever, but a horrified EMI convinced Hollis (by way of assorted threats) to agree to release two singles, the first of which, "I Believe in You," included the production of a video. Hollis had this to say about the process: "It went okay, but the idea of doing a promo for that song didn't feel right. That song means so much to me that to sit there and mime to it just feels totally stupid. In retrospect, I would rather have not done it at all, but there you go. It just felt like I was being prostituted. Tim [Friese-Greene] felt exactly the same, 'cos he cares about that sort of thing." After bolting EMI to sign a four album deal with a smaller label (Verve/Polydor) that had promised them complete creative autonomy, Talk Talk set about recording their legendary swan-song, Laughing Stock. Ironically, though the album was even less single-friendly than its predecessor, three tracks were chosen by Verve and issued as collectible parts of an elaborately and beautifully designed Talk Talk Picture CD Box Set. Each of the singles, "After the Flood," "New Grass," and "Ascension Day" were issued separately in the UK, though only "After the Flood" was issued with the box. Each release contains an album track paired with an outtake or a previously unreleased track from the Laughing Stock recording sessions, the latter being instrumentals of varying degrees of interest. "5-09" can best be described as a sound collage of various key instrumental threads that occur on the album and "Stump" is an atonal experimental piece. While nowhere near as essential as the album itself, these singles remain an interesting chapter in Talk Talk's post-EMI career, as they offer a telling glimpse into Verve's strategy for promoting a band that was antithetical to the concept of promoting art.

T. Rex- S/T (1970) MP3 & FLAC

"A shape that was golden and crimson extended a claw to my frame. I sunk in the sand like an infant. I screamed but my tongue was lame."

Marc Bolan's decision to pick up the electric guitar may not have been as momentous as Bob Dylan's similar decision five years earlier, but in its own way, it created a ripple effect that was felt well into the seventies and beyond. More specifically, Bolan's re-invention of his sound, from the baroque freak-folk of Tyrannosaurus Rex to the harder, sex-drenched re-interpretation of early rock conventions that characterized T. Rex, is often credited as the true progenitor of the British Glam movement, which makes sense given that Glam is firmly grounded in the psychedelic and Art-Rock trends of the late sixties while also representing an overt rejection of the utopian tendencies of the era's counter-culture. Bolan is also credited with lending Glam its taste for musical theatrics, its androgynous sexuality, and its penchant for satin and glitter, all of which coalesced in T. Rex's legendary performance of the single "Hot Love" on Top of the Pops in 1971:

The seeds of Bolan's transformation can be traced back to a disastrous U.S. tour to promote Tyrannosaurus Rex's third album, Unicorn, during which his relationship with the other member of the duo, percussionist Steve Peregrine Took, suffered irreparably. The story goes that Took's replacement on the next album, Mickey Finn, lacked Took's backing-vocal abilities, which forced Bolan to double-track his own vocals, and in doing so, he stumbled on another element of the band's new sound. T. Rex, like its predecessor, Beard of Stars, is a transitional album through and through; however, unlike its predecessor, T. Rex bears some unmistakable signs pointing to the artistic heights Bolan would hit on the next three T. Rex albums. "Jewel" is a perfect example of this. At first glance, it sounds very much in the vein of the early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums with Bolan inhabiting his "bopping elf" persona and Finn providing some minimalist bongo accompaniment; however, just beneath the surface, the song burns along as an intense, bluesy rocker until the midway point, when Bolan offers a glimpse of the sound that would soon make him an icon. On "Diamond Meadows," the band utilizes what sounds like a string quartet to amp up the drama and beauty of the song, and while it does echo Bolan's earlier work to some degree, it sounds bigger and more fully formed in terms of melody and impact. One of the lesser-known gems found on T. Rex is "Seagull Woman," which has the distinction of being the first time Bolan worked with ex-Turtles Flo & Eddie, whose back-up vocals would play a major role in the success of Electric Warrior a year later. The song features one of Bolan's most beautifully understated vocals and a striking melody. Some characterize this album as little more than an an inferior warm-up for the classic albums that followed it, but T. Rex, in its own subtly prescient ways, is a worthy precursor to those albums.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lou Reed & John Cale- "Berlin" (1972) Live at Bataclan

Amazing footage of Lou doing "Berlin" during a Velvets re-union of sorts. And in case you're curious, yes, that's Nico in the background.

Siouxsie and The Banshees- Join Hands (1979) MP3 & FLAC -For Ol' Foggy-

"You swallow the trail but still arrive in your entrails."

Join Hands is often characterized as an early misfire for Siouxsie and The Banshees, a bleak, impenetrable album containing few if any of the charms found in the band's other albums of the time. When listening to this album, I can't help but wonder what its reputation would be if it had been recorded by another band, instead of being sandwiched in between groundbreaking works such as The Scream  and Kaliedoscope. Don't get me wrong, Join Hands offers few of the Punk theatrics of the former or the powerful vocal performances of the latter, but in their place, The Banshee's sophomore album captures the band (as it was then comprised) at their most unstructured, unpolished, and experimental. This was partly due to the success of The Scream, which prompted Polydor to pressure the band for a timely follow-up; however, The Banshees were already fraying at the edges and heading toward a state of emotional disarray, something that would eventually lead to their disintegration while on tour supporting Join Hands. Undeniably, the album bears the mark of its tumultuous origins, and because of this, it is often written off as an artistic "hiccup" before putting together the classic incarnation of The Banshees that included Budgie and John McGeoch, but such critics overlook the way Join Hands ties Siouxsie's early Punk-influenced sound to her later, more overtly Goth-oriented approach. Simply put, Join Hands may not be as consistent as its predecessor, but it takes bigger chances by pushing Siouxsie's unique take on Punk minimalism to a new level. For example, on "Placebo Effect," the band marries the dark, minor-key attack that characterized the debut album to a slower, more plodding rhythm, as Siouxsie, strangely buried in the mix, contributes one of her better vocals on the album. However, it is John McKay's ominous guitar-work that really brings the song together, thus providing a valuable reminder that this early incarnation of the band was something to behold. While Join Hands is successful in pushing the Punk aesthetic into areas even further afield than the debut, on songs such as "Icon," it also anticipates the more melodic and varied sonic approach Siouxsie would take on future albums after reforming the band. Where the album (and its reputation) falters a bit is the way it ends: the fourteen minute "The Lord's Prayer," which was an integral part of their live set at the time. While impressive in theory, the song just isn't sonically compelling enough to provide a proper finale to what is otherwise one of the more inventive albums in Siouxsie and The Banshees' discography.