Friday, March 13, 2015

Spiritualized - Run

Is this sublime or what? Spiritualized's cover of J.J. Cale's "Run." This is the single version. There is also an equally great version on Spiritualized's first (and very brilliant) album Lazer Guided Melodies (1992). I was listening to this album nonstop back in the old Pittsburgh days. I remember regularly driving from Oakland (where I lived) to the Southside. You had to cross over the Birmingham Bridge, then take a right onto Carson, leading you towards Dee's -- that infamous bar where I stumbled out many a night a bit more intoxicated than necessary, having decided that writing a dissertation was not a life conducive to improving one's self-respect. Spiritualized's "Run" was a perfect soundtrack to those nights.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Last Month

A bit of a random post here, by which I mean that this post is not necessarily centered around a single song or a band or anything like that, but more a general commentary about things.

I was just looking at my iTunes and thought I'd write about the last few things I've added to it -- things acquired in the past month. (It's easy to verify this since iTunes has a "Recently Added" feature). Some of the stuff I added is positively embarrassing, but some not so. For some reason, I downloaded the entire catalog--all three albums--of Buffalo Springfield. Every so often, I go off on a Neil Young tangent and I seem to have gone in one recently, sparked by two recent vinyl purchases, of Time Fades Away (1973) and On The Beach (1974). Those who are somewhat familiar with the Neil Young songbook will recognize those two albums as part of the so-called "ditch trilogy" (the third one being Tonight's The Night from 1975), because apparently he left the "middle of the road" pop industry and headed for the ditch. Either way, these two are spectacular albums, although very different in tone. Time Fades Away is unpolished, scraggly, barely put together, just completely falling apart, while On The Beach is moderated, controlled, and weary in tone. But both are incredibly morose albums, the kind of stuff you don't want to hear often. They contain some of Neil Young's greatest songs that no one's ever heard of. I'm thinking of fantastic songs like "On The Beach," "Revolution Blues," and "Ambulance Blues" from On The Beach, amazing meditations on the malaise of the nineteen seventies and the death of the 1960s dream. Here is "Revolution Blues" a kind of "fuck you" to Southern California's star culture. The music is propulsive, amazing, David Crosby's rhythm guitar and Levon Helm's drums creating aural imagery of people out to do something wrong. Of course, a fabulously bizarre lead solo from Neil Young himself. Key lines:

"Well I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars
But I hate them worse than lepers
And I'll kill them in their cars"

Anyway, so Buffalo Springfield, yeah what a great '60s band, very quintessentially hippie but with an inventive spirit that burnt out too soon. Neil was, of course, firing on all cylinders producing one masterpiece after another on those early Springfield albums, including the epic "Expecting To Fly."

Other recent additions? Well, I got me some obscure David Bowie, actually some of his maligned 1980s stuff, particularly the rather unremarkable singles "Never Let Me Down" and "Absolute Beginners" but also the utterly strange Baal E.P. (1982), a bunch of songs written for Bertolt Brecht's play of the same name. One of the songs ("The Drowned Girl") actually has a video for it. It's very dirge-y, not something you want to hear first thing in the morning. One of Bowie's odd excursions outside the pop world. Other recent Bowie acquisitions included the soundtrack for the movie The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) which features the utterly great song named after the movie, a collaboration between fusion jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and Bowie. A lovely and evocative song from a surprisingly great movie:

I also coincidentally acquired another movie song:"Real Cool World"off the Cool World (1992) soundtrack. Bowie had firmly moved into the electronic dance pop phase of the 1990s by this time. I remember when this came out, I totally loved it, but this was also a time when I was madly going to clubs and doing what club people do. It sounds a bit dated now but has the spirit of good disposable pop.

Other acquisitions in the last month include Thom Yorke's recent solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. I quite liked his last one but at the same time I am in danger of getting fatigued a bit on his whole blippity-bloppity unobtrusive electronic music experiments. And I wish he would just belt out sometimes, and actually sing about something different than the computer distance between us all, or whatever. This isn't bad actually, especially the second half of the album which is a bit more ambient and Aphex Twin-y than your usual Radiohead glitchy pop. The last song on the album, "Nose Grows Some," is like many last songs on Radiohead albums, a bit dreamy and very pretty:

unofficial nose grows some from spilleR ltd on Vimeo.

OK, I also got the recent Sleater-Kinney album, No Cities To Love (2015) which I've been listening to quite a bit recently. I resisted the hype--there was this absolutely ridiculously hagiographic essay on Pitchfork about the band that was really grotesque--so I almost didn't want to like it. I like it a lot actually. They put together some good songs! It's not as monumentally heavy and kickass as The Woods (2006) which almost rivals Led Zeppelin IV in heaviness, but the new one is a great upbeat rock album for those into that kind of thing. Here is "Price Tag" performed live:

A final addition to my iTunes, the lovely EP2 by FKA Twigs. Who could possibly not like "Water Me"? Gorgeous: