Thursday, April 28, 2005

Some Recent Acquisitions

The Decemberists

My Short Take

Jeff Mangum reincarnates... as Colin Meloy, and makes the next great Neutral Milk Hotel album (oops, wait a minute, I guess Jeff Mangum isn't dead yet). Meloy shares Mangum's ability to fashion fun-house mirror pop songs, and The Arcade Fire's fascination with 1st intervals. Great, great stuff.

Others Write

Re-sleeve that album cover! Disregard those silly liner-note photographs! Never you mind the Decemberists' attempts at theatricality-- Picaresque is the band's least stagy, most serious, and most accomplished effort yet."

"The tunes take the listener on a time-shifting, stream-of-consciousness expedition into the imagination, peopled by infant monarchs, suicidal lovers, vengeful sailors, military wives and boy ghosts. As with classic picaresque tales, the art and purpose lie not with the narrative's resolution but in the trip itself."
Pop Matters

"Like Nellie McKay says, all dude-rock is a pose, and unless selling drugs or driving steel is your art, you’re always going be at least once removed from reality, which means you have just as much freedom to embellish or flat-out make shit up as Meloy.

The only difference is that rather than sell you snake oil, Meloy’s selling you a self-contained universe, and while there may be a certain self-consciousness in wilin’ out to Meloy’s carefully arranged costume dramas, it’s not really any more of an escape because all of the normal human conflicts are still there."

"'The Infanta,' the thunderous opening track on the Decemberists' fluid and predictably studious Picaresque, rolls in like a ghost ship at 40 knots in a hail of cannon fire with a mad English professor at the wheel. Colin Meloy and his esteemed West Coast colleagues have no qualms about beginning their third full-length record with a processional about a child monarch, and it's a testimony to their talents as orators and interpreters of both the absurd and the mundane that they continue to assimilate more fans than they alienate."
All Music Guide

Silent Alarm
Bloc Party
Silent Alarm

My Short Take

Okay, so what would it sound like if a young Damon Albarn was Gang of Four's lead singer? Might sound something like Bloc Party. Lean, angular, slashing guitars under a wailing British tenor. Brilliant, mate.

Others Write

"Screw context, screw biography—Bloc Party have been around too short a time for either to matter. What is important is that they have a sense of adventure, romance, belief and intelligence, of art, a desire to explode preconceptions and exceed expectations that marks them out way above and beyond any of their perceived peers. Silent Alarm is a debut about desperation, about being desperately angry at injustice, about being desperately confused with the world, about being desperately in love."

"People will love this record. And so, inevitably, the people who don't love it will start complaining. And when they complain, they'll point out that this is just a regular-old rock album, full of all the current stylish rock-album tricks. And they'll be absolutely right; at worst, Bloc Party are like one of those people who are so well-groomed that it's hard to remember exactly what they look like. But really, a complaint like that misses something: Being a good ol' unchallenging rock band is this outfit's whole point-- and their biggest strength."

"Batten down the hatches and light the torches. Bloc Party is Paul Revere music. It is a rallying cry on swift horseback, a revolving lighthouse floodlight penetrating wind, ice, rain, and snow. The London-based quartet lives in a succession of tensions: little tic-addled songs that breathe deadlines, generated by dual-turreted guitars that spiral up the rhythm section like a neon double helix."
Pop Matters

I Am A Bird Now
Antony & The Johnsons
I Am A Bird Now

My Short Take

It's all but certain that if you haven't heard this record, you haven't heard anything like Antony. A high, keening tenor, often soaring to falsetto, with a Bryan Ferryesque warble on the top. Over the top, really. Listen here to "Hope There's Someone" and prepare to disbelieve.

Others Write

"The greatness of this downcast crooner is the melding of that otherworldly trill with a dark, powerful aesthetic. Looking past his sad eye make-up and kewpie-doll features are these mesmerizing songs about loving dead boys, plaintive letters from hermaphroditic children, the fear of dark lonesome purgatories, breast amputation, the fluidity of gender."

"I'm completely overwhelmed by this record. I Am a Bird Now is beyond any semi-confectionary aesthetic distance that you might bring to discussing your average album. This music grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go. It feels timeless and gorgeous and bigger than life. It may not be "soul" in the strict, music appreciation 101 sense, but it could make even the most jaded atheist approach a metaphysical regard. It is assured, seering and majestic SOUL to the utmost. I'd put on my critic's cap and dive into scrutiny, but I am too enraptured by this artist's music."
Tiny Mix Tapes

LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem

My Short Take

Not much doubt that "Daft Punk Is Playing In My House" is the most ass-shakinest, killer riffinest, groovealiciousest song that I have heard in a long, long time. Worth the price of admission just for this track alone, but the rest of the album rocks in a super-disco bass-thumpin' way as well.

Others Write

"And, simply put, it’s a hit. It’s not exactly a home-run, mind you—LCD Soundsystem is not an album that results in blown minds and logic-defying epiphanies. But after disappointing would-be breakthrough releases from so many of the discopunk frontlines, this is an album that’s more easily classifiable as “great” for what it isn’t, rather than what it is. It’s not inconsistent. It’s not a total deviation from what we know of the group. It’s never dull. And, most importantly—it is in no way a let down."

"I'm completely overwhelmed by this record. If a music-nerd version of Animal House set in 2005 is ever made, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" -- the boisterous opener of LCD Soundsystem -- would make an ideal theme song for the fraternity on which it is based. The self-conscious, awkward music obsessives pledging into this fraternity would have to pass a complex trivia test, own a compulsory list of records, and, as a hazing ritual, ask to dance with someone in public. If LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy were the least bit open to the concept, he could be the fraternity's advisor. Judging from a handful of singles and this album, he'd be more than qualified."
All Music Guide

"I have a big crush on James Murphy, but all music critics do. He's like the much cooler version of us. He is the big white music nerd who actually went on to do something about it by co-founding DFA Records and producing the coolest music in the world: post-punk post-funk punk-funk, new wave that also sounds like no wave, tunes that make dancers confused as to whether they should pogo or do the pelvic thrust, music that incorporates all other musics."
Pop Matters

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Top 26 Albums of the 1990s (Part 4)

In Utero

Who: Nirvana
What: In Utero
When: September 21, 1993
Why: Nevermind was the album that launched a thousand other albums, right? In actuality, this was Nirvana’s true masterpiece. This was the one that took their sound to its furthest extremes, and the one that indicated the direction they were headed when Kurt Cobain ended it all a few months after its release. The tested Nirvana formula (brooding verse, pounding chorus, brooding verse) was still intact, but was now spread over varying tempos (most notably on “Heart Shaped Box” and “Pennyroyal Tea”) and subjects --“Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” being one, where Kurt recounts the lurid tale of the ‘40s B-Movie actress as a possibly prophetic analogy for his own fiery end.

My Life

Who: Iris DeMent
What: My Life
When: April 12, 1994
Why: A roots record of the most realistic sort. It’s an example of that rarest breed of records, one that deals with the lives of real adult people with honesty and a minimum of insincere sentiment. Two songs stand out in this regard. “My Life” is a serious examination of the tender balance that comes with middle-age – understanding the deep joys that can come from the simplest actions, but also understanding the deep sense of loss and regret that come from opportunities lost. “No Time To Cry” is the most honest portrayal imaginable of the emotions surrounding the death of a parent – the need to hold it together in the face of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the event. I really don’t think I’ve ever heard a song as deep, honest and real as this one anywhere else.


Who: Weezer
What: Weezer
When: May 10, 1994
Why: The Blue Album. My, Nirvana really did change things quite a bit in the early ‘90s didn’t they? Just listen to “The Sweater Song” or “Say It Ain’t So” on this album to get an idea of just how much. Turn up the crunch on the guitars and then turn the volume way up on the choruses. Some do it better than others, though, and Weezer was at the front of the pack following this eponymous debut. Some sweetness and light breaks through, though, especially on “Buddy Holly” (made famous by the Spike Jonze sendup of “Happy Days” in the hilarious video for the song). Hard rock sometimes comes in small packages, and few came smaller or harder than Rivers Cuomo in 1994.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Most Recent Random iTunes Plays

  • Curls - Madvillain
  • What Can I Say - Yo La Tengo
  • Iris - The Breeders
  • Misery - Green Day
  • Beach Party Tonight - Yo La Tengo
  • Echo Beach - Martha and the Muffins
  • Monolith - The Beta Band
  • Give It Up - Midtown
  • Nature Boy - Primus
  • Oh, Me - Nirvana
  • I'm So Bored With The USA - The Clash
  • Explosivo - Tenacious D
  • The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - Genesis
  • On The Last Ride In - Pinetop Seven
  • Dodge Veg-O-Matic - Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Looking for the sexiest move in rock history (female division)? Look no further than this video, for "Judith" by A Perfect Circle. Midway through there is a little guitar break (5 seconds, tops) wherein Paz Lenchantin takes her hair up and clips it off, then commences to rocking out again without missing a beat. Oh, my.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Our Trip To The Loo!

Bottom line: could have been better, could have been worse. Let's go to the tape, Sergio Leone style!


The Good: The Drury Inn & Suites Convention Center was very well-located -- right across the street from the Edward Jones Dome. As a matter of fact, if I had longer arms I could have touched the arena from our window. Really long arms, mind you, but you get the picture. Also within easy walking distance of the various drinking establishments of Laclede's Landing.

The Bad: The well-placed room cost about 38 cents per minute spent in it.

The Ugly: Many of those minutes involved vomiting.

Friendly Encounters

The Good: Noreen & I met up with Mark, Donnelly, Christy and assorted others at the Trainwreck Saloon for pregame festivities. These festivities were predicated, of course, on the assumption of a dry venue for the game (no beer at NCAA championship sites) and the concomitant need to hose rapidly and in great volume. More about that later, but fun was had including seeing Hoag and Snider pour beer all over their own faces in an apparent attempt to prove a point about something or other to some complete strangers.

The Bad: Norb's friend Mark came with him and the negativity level from his sector was not cool.

The Ugly: Nothing too ugly on this front. No brawls or fistfights. No obnoxious North Carolina fans. There was the vomiting, though.

Our Seats

The Good: We may get a refund.

The Bad: Under the best of circumstances, the bad would have involved the location of our seats in super nosebleed territory.

The Ugly: These were not the best of circumstances.

Super nosebleed seats would have been much better than the seats we wound up with, which were in front of a TV in the basement of a bar back in the Landing. Theories abound regarding what happened, but these are the facts as we now know them:

  1. We bought tickets for the final game on ebay a couple of months ago, with the hopes that the Illini would meet us at the Edward Jones Dome.
  2. The Illini held up their end of the bargain.
  3. Our end was thwarted by an apparent sting operation run on our "ticket broker" by the St. Louis Police Department. This "broker" apparently failed to take all proper precautions, the result being that our tickets were confiscated by the SLPD, along with those of a few dozen other unfortunate souls. What actually became of the tickets, no one seems to know. If anyone did sit in those seats, though, it wasn't us -- and I'm pretty sure that someone did sit in those seats.
The Game

The Good: Heedless of our plight, the powers-that-be pressed ahead with the scheduled playing of the national championship game. The good for the Illini consisted of the tremendous heart shown by the team in rallying from a 15-point second half deficit to twice tie the game in its waning moments, at 67 and 70.

The Bad: A key turnover, a key UNC offensive rebound, and a couple of clanked shots in the last two minutes combined to undo the championship dreams of thousands of orange-clad faithful both inside the stadium and around the world. UNC 75, U of I 70. Fourth NCAA title for the Tar Heels, continued dreams of a first for the Illini.

The Ugly: Can't say that there was anything ugly about either the game or the season for the Illini. Down 15 against a very talented opponent, a lot of teams would have folded. Not the Illini. So close to yet another comback for the ages, the Illini fell just a step short in the score, but certainly not in heart. Even a second-place finish ranks as the best in Illini history, and that has to be the stamp put upon this team: the best Illini team in 100 years of playing the game.