Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
They stood up to Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church that condemned them. They were jailed and beaten, whipped in public by Cossacks hired as security, and had chemicals thrown and sprayed on them. They are not particularly loved by the general public in Russia. This is their first song in English. It's a tribute to Eric Garner, a poor black man in New York City who was murdered by the police for selling cigarettes.
The end of the song should slay you.
In their words:
This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror––killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds––for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change. We stand in solidarity.
Thanks to Judith Jorrisch for the heads up and the words.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Saturday, February 14, 2015
|Illustration: Jean Giraud Moebius|
253) Jimi Hendrix, Little Wing: Little Wing is the ultimate Concerto for rock rhythm guitar – rhythm guitar being a generally overlooked and sorely undervalued proposition in rock music. The texture of his rhythms were loomed with golden-threaded filigree and atavistic riffing blowing in from the dark wilderness of jazz, R and B, and versions of funk and metal that were yet to exist. Obviously, Hendrix was no bitch as a lead player either, but as a poet of the chord, he was rhythm guitar's Jesus and Little Wing was his Synoptic Gospel. By the time he hits that G ninth before the turnaround his hands are walking on the water. Go to YouTube and watch guitar players break it down and try to demystify its ineffability: It can't be done. There's a magic in the notes here that can't be duplicated. This is the master's voice and we're all just Nipper tilting our heads at the Victrola.
A live version:
254) Ellen McIlwaine, Toe Hold, Jimmy Jean: Maybe it was McIlwaine's exotic early life and polyglotism that allowed her music a range and a gene-splicing of styles that enables her to overrun boundaries so effectively (Nashville born, growing up with missionaries in Japan). While the bulk of McIlwaine's work is folksy blues with stabs of jazz, it's her excursions into a kind of spunky, joy-leaking vamping of energized bliss that are truly sublime. Toe Hold and Jimmy Jean are masterpieces of the form.
We should all set our alarm clocks to these:
256) The Residents, Pardon Me: Much of their output could be well used as background music for cinematic bad acid trips – part horror movie, part modernist music for the salon, and a whole lot of silly. They can bounce from nightmarish vibes to Doctor Demento, hallucinatory Spike Jones, Ennio Morricone, and Morton Subotnick, Oompah bands, Neu!, and any open mike night at a coffee house near you. If those references are too old for you then how about Pee Wee Herman meets a 'shrooming Danny Elfman scoring Saw IV?
They were also pioneers electronica, ambient, dark wave, new wave, and few other sub-genres for which they'll never get credit. Like I said, much of their music is just plain silly. Still, there's a kind of genius to it that deserves our attention.
They were also pioneers of the music video. They must've poured a lot of money into these:
258) John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: Johnny Hartman, the quintessence of The Romantic Balladeer, possessed a voice smooth and mellow as sip of hundred year old scotch. His baritone was a lavender cloud, gentle as a caress, and more velvet than even Mel Tormé. Critically acclaimed but not widely known, at least until he made this record with Coltrane.
He sings with the cool unperturbability of Mr. Rogers. You can imagine him singing in a recliner lounger with a argyle cardigan and a steaming cup of spiked chamomile. The ultimate soundtrack for candlelight repasts and major post-prandial sexy-time.
259) Pere Ubu, Rounder, Misery Goat: As Eno once said, "Avant-garde music is sort of research music. You're glad someone's done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it." Like The Residents, which they must've surely been familiar, Pere Ubu was a vigorously anti-commercial, and sometimes unlistenable, venture. Still, there's a kind of genius to their pursuit of such an uneasy sound. Singer David Thomas's unhinged and skronky honk of a voice is like a fart-blown alto sax. It's a voice that seems aimed at your tolerance threshold by design. Add to that synthesizer layers of noise, dual fist-fighting Captain Beefheart guitars, and sundry other sounds – all of this cascading around the straight forward bass and drums. To his credit, figurehead and singular oddity Thomas, the only consistent member of the band, is still carrying the flag – he's recorded an album as recently as 2014.
Most critics argue the album Dub Housing is their best but of the albums I've heard, the Art of Walking is one of the more accessible: A good place to start.
260) Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Just a Gigolo: Smith and Prima were one of the hottest tickets in Vegas during the 50s. Prima discovered the gifted Smith when she was a mere 17. She'd tour with him at 18 and married him at 21. (She'd be Prima's fourth wife.) Prima was said to be an inveterate flirt and womanizer which may've led to their divorce although Smith, who admitted this only after Prima passed, had a torrid affair with Sinatra. (Sinatra asked her to marry him. He'd later marry 17 year old Mia Farrow instead.) An example of their club schtick can be seen in the video below. The great horn arrangement is the work of saxophonist Sam Butera. While this may've been the model for much of the '90s retro lounge big bands, the source material is better by far.
261) Bee Gees, I Started a Joke, Holiday, To Love Somebody, Words: The early Bee Gees hits were built from a cathedral of tears. Their songs were pathetic and lugubrious and also completely sincere in a way that only a young person without too much perspective can apply. All of the songs below dig deep on indigo strokes and are fueled by the tremulous falsetto of their voices. At this stage they were often favorably compared to The Beatles, also capable of pitch perfect constructions of insidiously infectious radio ditties. Forget the late '70s mega-platinum disco monster that they'd eventually become, this is where their creative nuggets most brilliantly shined.
Till I finally died/Which started the whole world living/Oh, if I'd only seen, oh yeah/That the joke was on me, oh no/That the joke was on me, ohh
Hugo Largo. If you're familiar Moby's Everything Is Wrong album then you've heard her impressive renderings of this and this. Always a brilliant and understated singer, her sweet and dark tone is wonderfully adept in both upper and lower registers. Elegiac is a word critics like to use and it suits her. Unlike the seamless tone of someone like, say, Johnny Hartman, her sound is perforated on every side with the memories of experience. Now that she's firmly into middle age I'd argue that her tone has only gained more depth, assurance, and character. When her voice soars, as it does in Roma, it is truly ascendent. There are no grandiose notes here; it's more of a pocket drama, subtle and contained but at the same time bold (in a polite way).
As I'm often saying on this blog, I love it when musical grayheads do good work and Songs for Persephone is an exemplary work from seasoned artists.
Posted by Deiter at 11:43 AM
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
So old, in fact, I remember the '80s – firsthand. I remember the hoary early days of Punk that preceded it. I remember how it felt: a growling soundtrack to a revolution about to happen. The truth is, as powerful as the music was – some of it, anyway – the music was almost ancillary: Its real power came from its anarchy. Bands were releasing their own records, printing their own 'zines, cobbling together their own fashion, and foregoing the institutions. Unlike the Surrealists and the Dadaists before, this was not a intellectual or elitist movement. It wasn't even a populist one – it was tribal and marginal by design. It was anti-cultural, anti-institutional, anti-establishment, and antisocial to a degree. It was like a rare earth element, destined to exist only for a moment in time.
Soon, the riffraff came – those with a pathological attraction to Punk's impudence and implied violence – and took things in another direction. Sid Vicious was the icon and the original genius of the movement was lost.
But, Punk's initial rages were rendered so authentically by the vanguard bands it was inevitable to quickly morph into a kind of institutional mediocrity as the sub-culture swelled. And now, a generation later, those first couple of years still remain a comet-sized fiery spitball that blew up Pop Culture.
Still, Punk was the fuel and momentum and its echoes still resound even now (see Perfect Pussy).
In this post- Green Day and Rock the Casbah era of mega-platinum "pop-punk," the rawer output of the first wave of bands may sound quaint by comparison. Despite their limited market exposure – MTV's 120 Minutes was still at least eight years away – their cultural influence was considerable. Beyond its tonsorial and sartorial statements, it was its rage for shaming the megastar dinosaur bands of the time where punk really made its mark. Punk seemed to quicken their slog into the tar pits of irrelevance. (Much of what would end up on Coda was Led Zeppelin's attempt to draw their swords against the attack.)
For those of you too young to remember, among those seminal late '70s punk bands was the original Buzzcocks. Before the assembly line of hits, their first release was a four song EP called Spiral Scratch and was essentially a très British rendering of the first Ramones album (which only preceded Spiral Scratch by less than a year). At this juncture, Pete Shelley was relegated to guitar and vocal back-ups and Howard Devoto was the vocalizer and lyricist. Soon after the recording, Devoto would depart and form the great post-punk Magazine.
Above, hear the classic iteration of the Buzzcocks run through Boredom live; Below, Magazine's decidedly more buttoned-up and padded shoulder take.
If you're interested, hear the entire Spiral Scratch EP here:
Sunday, January 11, 2015
One might quibble with her parents about the physical risks she's taking with her neck, but that aside, she's stupid amazing, huh?
Love the neck slashing motions: The kid's got chutzpah.
Also, props to the boy who was great in his own right and an epic sport.
Posted by Deiter at 12:10 PM