Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mark Linkous

Not to go off on a morbid bent here, but Mark Linkous died four years ago at the age of 47. It's hard for me to think of a musician death that hit me harder. I kind of never expected that. Anyway, so here are a couple of Sparklehorse songs.

The first is "See the Light" from Sparklehorse's album Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (2006).

The second is "Maria's Little Elbows," a song off Good Morning Spider (1998). There's a lovely and unexpected reference to the Velvet Underground's song "Candy Says" (from their self-titled 1968 album):

She said, "I've really come to hate my body
And all the things that it requires in this world."
I bet you're out there getting drunk, with all your friends
And it'll get you in the bathroom of a Texaco

Bled White

One of my favorite Elliott Smith songs, "Bled White," from the album XO (1998). Lovely arrangement, with piano, bass, guitar, and drums, all complementing each other, and all played by him.

"I'm never going to become what you became."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Elliott Smith - Waltz #2 (XO)

Elliott Smith died almost 11 years go. He was 34. I remember hearing about it, being shocked, saddened.

"She shows no emotion at all / Stares into space like a dead china doll."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


This is another repost, from March 4, 2010:

I saw the band Low a long time ago, opening for the Swans in Philadelphia back on January 26, 1997. They used to successfully capture that odd combination of ennui, navel gazing, loneliness, and melancholy ether that I would imagine my life being but never really was. If I tried hard enough, I would imagine that my life's banality hid some deeper meaning. This was, of course, self-deception on the grandest scale. But upon reflection, it's not so bad to think that way. And music is often my ticket to that self-deception.

Tonight I post two songs from Low, both of which I've posted before.

The first is a song called "Sunflower" which is possibly one of the most beautiful songs recorded in the last decade or two. I don't know what the song is about but it's a mini-story involving a death, a crime, and perhaps a betrayal. But it's also about a dream lost.

The lyrics are:

When they found your body
Giant X's on your eyes
With your half of the ransom
You bought some sweet, sweet, sweet
Sweet sunflowers
And gave them to the night

Underneath the star of David
A hundred years behind my eyes
And with my half of the ransom
I bought some sweet, sweet, sweet
Sweet sunflowers
And gave them to the night

The other song I'm posting is "Shame." The lyrics are:

A long time you waited
You thought it had abated
Shame of it all
The harm that it causes
Pours down like a faucet
Shame of it all

Tonight these two songs capture my mood.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Harmony Rockets - Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void

This is a repost from May 2008:

... Which brings me to Harmony Rockets, who released a single full-length CD in 1995 entitled Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void. The music on this CD consists of one single piece of music lasting 41 minutes and 40 seconds. One website calls it an "experimental album of epic proportions," and I would not disagree with that description. The band set up shop in a hotel in upstate New York and just played. They forgot about verses and choruses and beginnings and ends and scales and chords and keys and just kind of improvised some spacefreak music of magnificent proportions. Yet, there's some precedent for what they do: I detect bits and pieces of Sun Ra and even parts of the Velvet Underground's unreleased (at least in a studio version) "Melody Laughter."

But you don't have to know or care about that. How does it sound? For all of its so-called experimental nature, it actually sounds rather cordant (I know that's not a word, but I wish it was) and not at all cacophonic. The band--seven people--use guitars with massive effects, a rumbling bass, a saxophone that weaves in and out. A voice murmurs words and sentences for a while. It builds, it ebbs, at one point sounding like you're literally in the middle of a cyclone (in the key of C). The music slows down everything and puts your existence to total slow motion. Great to listen to while you're waiting for someone to show up. And the conclusion is like a reprieve, you feel the light sweat on your upper lip, as if you're just coming out of a dream. I highly recommend it for those who might be a little adventurous and have about an hour to kill late... late... very late at night.

Point of note for artifact fetishists: the original CD came in a beautiful package, with silver embossed writing on the cover. The CD also comes with a picture of the tape machine used to record the album. The liner notes say the following:

Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void was performed live at Rhinecliff Hotel by the group Harmony Rockets. It was recorded on a hand-held Arrivox-Tandberg 183 analog cassette recorder. Due in part to the out-dated [sic] nature (ancient by today's standards) of this machine and an inadequate P.A. system . . . periodic portions of the music undulate and appear to distort. . . . Thus, the sounds on this disc are unaltered, and remain true to the nature of the original performance.

An important point to make here is this: Harmony Rockets was basically a side-project of the much better-known band Mercury Rev who produced a bunch of great albums in the 1990s, including the classic Yerself Is Steam, one of the most insanely fantastic albums of that decade. Speaking of Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void, Jonathan Donahue, the lead singer of Mercury Rev, later noted, responding to an interviewer:

Donahue: It's mostly instrumental, but there's some vocals on the beginning of it, it's me singing. Basically, what it is, is most of Mercury Rev, that you see up there [on stage], were trying to kill a Friday night in the mountains, got really wasted and wandered down to a local Civil War bar. They needed an opening band, so we brought some old analog effects with us and some guitars and just whooped up whatever we were doing for, like, forty minutes and stopped. Somebody had a tape, figuring it was ya know, Mercury Rev, so they sorta recorded it shittily.
Interviewer: So, the entire album is live?

: Yeah, just made up on the spot. There's not a damn thing that was practiced ever, it just sort of happened, but it came out really nice. We like it, we were pretty surprised.

Looking up my trusty 1,088 page version of The Great Indie Discography (2nd ed), I see that Harmony Rockets released one other thing, an e.p.. That stuff is very very different from Paralyzed Mind: on the e.p. they cover "I've Got a Golden Ticket" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and (of all things) Vangelis' "L'Apocalypse des Animaux." The music veers from disco to moody instrumentals. Not really worth tracking down.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All Gone

So Tommy died. Joey died in 2001, Dee Dee in 2002, and Johnny in 2004. All the original Ramones are gone.