Friday, August 1, 2014

Bowie Outtakes from 1977

Two instrumental tracks left in the can from David Bowie and Brian Eno ca. 1977, from the fertile Low/Heros period.

It's amazing how fresh they sound. Listen:

From Dangerous Minds

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sexy Robot

The song for the most part is a basic ProTools-sausage electronica recipe – though, better than most. Aside from the club beats, it has a kind of Todd Rundgren-ish sound. It's usually not the sort of thing we feature here on Jellyroll. 

Except that this video has a twerking robot:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Afghan Whigs: Matamoros

Here's a blistering recent Letterman performance – Greg Dulli's voice is still going where it needs to go:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Music that Matters, Pt 23

232) Vladimir CosmaDiva Soundtrack: Romanian composer Cosma was born into a family tree fruity with starched-collar music folk. He may be a bit of a starched collar himself as his forays into rock and pop have the sound of being approached with an academic's forceps, but his tastes and sonic instincts are sound. Keep in mind this is 1981, a time when digital sounds and gated drums were nearly as exotic as throat singing. Both are used to impressive effect on Ground Swell. Dead End sounds a little like The Buggles channeling Peter Gabriel but the unaccompanied piano piece Sentimental Walk is minor masterpiece. The choice of the La Wally aria (ca. 1892) with its searing high notes and juicy operatic histrionics tosses a capital "M" musical IED into the bulls-eye.

Ground Swell by Vladimir Cosma on Grooveshark

Sentimental Walk by Vladimir Cosma on Grooveshark

Dead End by Vladimir Cosma on Grooveshark

Aria from La Wally by Vladimir Cosma on Grooveshark

233) Ethyl Meatplow, Close to You: Back in the day they were criticized by peers like Kim Gordon for their processed live sound and nude female dancers. By today's standards Ethyl Meatplow's sound is practically organic. Featuring a pre-Geraldine Fibbers Carla Bozulich heaving an indelicate vocal performance that hits its notes with a hammer. Helped along to great effect by ex-Magazine Barry Adamson, the latex-tight arrangement all but strangles the last vestiges of Burt Bacharach and The Carpenters out of it.

Close to You by Ethyl Meatplow on Grooveshark

234) Choir Invisible, Choir Invisible: Theirs was a kind of caffeinated proto-shoegaze sound that earned its pretentions. Their tight and florid rhythm section – an anomaly in new wave of the time – was propped up on the lead boots of their songwriting. Released on the tiny indie So CA label Frontier Records in 1981, the album was destined for obscurity and that was a shame. By the early 80s their kind of Bauhaus/Cure/Siouxsie guitar theatrics were sweeping the suburbs – with its flange and delay heavy atmospherics – a trick that allowed even marginal players to blow out effects-laden clouds of etherium. Call it Prog-punk. Or, a poor man's version of Bauhaus – I think they're actually better. They're miles spunkier than The Cure of the time. A few more drafts on the lyric sheet might've helped them deforest some of the inscrutability from their lyrics, though they were probably no worse than many of their peers. And the band's chops were leagues better.

Download and judge for yourself:
Choir Invisible, The Distance From...
Choir Invisible, Playing Cards

235) Ruth BrownHe Treats Your Daughter Mean: Raw in the way that only the 50s could be (released in 1953) from this so called Queen of R&B. You have to love the way her voice squeaks up at the end of "mean." It's a voice that's sweet-girly at its center that ruffles tough at the edges. It's a rasp well-worn from a young woman's want of hard loving. The song itself isn't much more than a trite confection but the devil is always in the details and Brown brings the details like a Von Dutch paint job.

236) Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die: By the time this album was released in 1970, Stevie Winwood – having already tendered time with Spencer Davis, Traffic 1.0, and Blind Faith – was merely aged 22. Regardless, this album is an astonishingly accomplished and mature work. Every song is a jewel. The album is considered an early entry into the genre of "jazz-rock," a form not much explored by 1970 – ironic given rock's roots in jazz (but that's another discussion). As ever, Winwood's voice is as brilliantly garbled and nearly indecipherable. As good as Traffic was, their every album before and after Barleycorn was only a means to this: A masterpiece.

John Barleycorn by Traffic on Grooveshark

Freedom Rider by Traffic on Grooveshark

237) Rammstein, Ich Will: Admittedly, this is slicked-over teenage rage at its most rudimentary and I'm way too old for it. But Rammstein (pronounced Ram STINE) is just so goddam infectious I can't help myself. I won't pretend this is anything but basic dumbbell metal – everything is on the metronome click, cliches spew like chunks at a frat house party, harmonies are of the strict basic power five-chord kind, and the lyrics (the English ones anyway, I don't speak German) are pure pablum. Pitchfork describes them as "Marilyn Manson with early '80s production techniques" and "style over substance."  The songwriting chops are pure early period Ramones with half the melodic content, but the Ramones blown through a jet engine. When the vocals are kept at a low technocratic growl things are fine. When they're sung, on the other hand, they come off like an "r"-rolling Robert Goulet. I can think of a hundred other reasons why I shouldn't like Rammstein and yet I do. Not all of it, mind you, but there's enough bratwurst amongst the tripe to make it blast-worthy for the car. And that's all I'm looking for.  

Ich will by Rammstein on Grooveshark

238) Jandek: Let's say there are two kinds of music makers in the world: those who want to make music that sounds like the music they love, and those who don't. This Don't category is exceptionally small. Jandek is a Don't. It may not be that Jandek doesn't want to sound like someone else, he probably couldn't if he tried. His muses won't let him. Often called an "outsider" musician, there does seem to be a strain of madness in his work, whether it's actual or a coy imitation it's hard to know. His muses seem to be transmitting from Neptune. His technique can bounce from child-like to childish and at times his ear seems to be pure tin. The songs have an improvised off-the-top-of-the-head quality and at times it brings to mind the music of The Shaggs. You have to give Jandek, nee Sterling Richard Smith, his rightful due. Anyone with a pretty voice can find an appreciative audience. It takes real courage to get up in front of people and make these kinds of sounds. 

Cave in on You by Jandek on Grooveshark

239) Clifford Brown, Yesterdays: Brownie, as he was called, jumped this coil at the tender age of 25 and left behind only 4 years of recordings. Considered a major influence on the many trumpeters to follow and one of the three greats of the modern jazz age (along with Miles and Diz), he was easily the most melodic. Probably best remembered for standing sweetly before a string section, Brownie could blow it hard when he wanted to. Probably one of the best instrumental renditions of Yesterdays ever recorded.

Yesterdays by Clifford Brown on Grooveshark

240) Al Green, You Ought to Be with Me: Sure, Al Green is great. Undoubtedly. Who else stands his class? Marvin Gaye, maybe? That aside, imagine how disappointed I was to learn of Green's history as a wife beater (admitted, without contrition, by Al himself in court). Because Reverand Al is an asshole in his personal life shouldn't change his standing as a singer or his deep catalog of great 70s era work. He had the whole package – passion, great songwriting, the ultimate sex groove of a band, and great production. Al never oversings or resorts to musclely histrionics. He just doesn't seem capable of singing a fake note. Only wish he wasn't such an asshole.

You Ought to Be With Me by Al Green on Grooveshark

241) Three Thirds: Buffalo Skinner: Clearly, Three Thirds were Jandek fans. Woody never sounded so abstracted.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Siouxsie Spellbinding

Before she became Siouxsie Sioux, Susan Janet Ballion was best known as one of the Bromley Contingent, a rag tag group of revelers who were looking for an alternative to pop culture that came together through early Sex Pistols performances. It was the young Susan who stood behind the couch as The Pistols gave their infamous interview to Bill Grundy on the British Today program(me).

These humble fangirl beginnings gave no indication of erstwhile Susan's future greatness. As someone who grew up in The Banshee's era, I know firsthand the power Siouxsie held for women of her generation (a period best represented as '77-'87). Her robust and throaty tone (with more than a hint of testosterone), her self-assuredness, her proto-goth sartorial style and her expressionist kabuki like make-up (one critic described her as "her own Warhol portrait") made her nearly ideal for those on the margins of a Reagan-Thatcher world. She was a leader, and unlike Patti Smith, she was a fashion forward one. While the musical wave of Siouxsie's era included more of a quantity of women than previous decades, there were few of the period who would live to stand the test of time (Chrissie Hynde, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Annie Lennox being a few exceptions). Siouxsie's voice nearly always transcended her material – which could be spotty at times – but when the material – and the guitar player – were worthy of the singer, both could soar.

As seen below – with her now deep into her fifth decade – the old girl still has much creative spunk in her yet.

(If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had any real cred, she'd be in it.)

"Their greatest line-up" live from Rockplast 1981:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: It Ain't Nirvana

Fifteen years ago, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established by a group of record execs and attorneys. While legendary Atlantic Records producer and impresario Ahmet Ertegun and Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner had some involvement, the Hall of Fame does come off rather like an outfit run by suits. In fact, its present CEO – Joel Pressman, has had no previous music industry experience whatsoever. KISS's Paul Stanley had this to say about him:
Why not look at Joel Peresman’s credentials? What has he done to qualify him to run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What did he do? He worked at Madison Square Garden as a Vice President. Well, as far as I’m concerned, delivering newspapers doesn’t qualify you as an expert on literature. 
Every year its list of inductees favors the big sellers while consistently skipping over many of the true innovators (e.g. Tom Petty, yes; Muddy Waters, no). According to their website their mission is to "recognize the people who have created this music which has become the most popular music of our time." Well then, mission accomplished. 

Looking at the roster of inductees you'll note it isn't nearly as black and blues oriented as it should be. Ostensibly, The Hall of Fame's purpose is archival, tributary, and non-profit. Realistically, it also brings in oodles of money. (To offer some perspective, pro football teams are also considered non-profit.) Interestingly, artists who're honored are required to buy tickets for their guests and reserving tables can go for tens of thousands of dollars (see here for Johnny Rotten's ideas on that).

Anyway, this year they honored Nirvana. One might quibble with the band's choices for vocal replacements but the concept of featuring all female singers – both young and old – turned out to be a good one. The band's survivors and their guests comported themselves proudly. It was the young kiwi singer Lorde who provided the evening's highlight giving All Apologies an appropriately restrained twist. Saint Vincent offered her a toned down but decent Lithium but the other two guests – Joan Jett and Kim Gordon – despite gallant and courageous attempts, were asked to write checks too large for their voices to cash. (Really, who could sing Smells Like Teen Spirit?) As for the band's part, Dave Grohl is still one of the best bangers available and Krist Novoselic's bass lines were much improved over the dumbbell ones played on the records. (His accordion was a nice touch.) Sideman Pat Smear gave the proceedings the proper gusto.

Here's the full performance: skip to Lorde at 32:10:

Of course, the producers had the video taken down. Instead, here's a crappy camera phone version:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Banned Music in the USSR

A blacklist of banned bands in the USSR as created by Komsomol, the Communist Party’s Youth Wing (date unknown).  “This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques...”

Sex Pistols and Judas Priest, sure, but The B-52s and The Village People?

Thanks to Nerdcore.