Last Saturday, I saw Yo La Tengo play at the Columbus Theater in Providence. It was my second Yo La Tengo show and the better of the two, I think. In the first set, the band really went to their quieter music, which isn’t surprising given the preponderance of this in so many of their albums. That included “Green Arrow,” which was an exciting one for me to see, as well as “Deeper Into Movies.” So that was fun. But the second set, it was pure noise rock and roll of the kind that they do so well when they put their mind to it. That included “Beanbag Chair,” “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” and “Sugarcube.” God that was cathartic. Just outstanding. As then as they are wont to do, they did three covers for the encore. I don’t know if there’s another active band that has this many covers in their pocket, ready to do at any time. For this show, they covered the Urinals “Ack Ack Ack” in the first set and then in the encore, The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby,” and The Beach Boys, “Farmers Daughter.” I wasn’t as ecstatic with these covers as the last time I saw them, when they did Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War,” but it was still pretty cool. Anyway, great show.
I guess I assume that The Beatles are influential on all versions of American rock and roll ever since. But this is a deep dive into the specific impact of The White Album on indie rock between 1988 and 1995.
During the Georgia Senate elections, Jason Isbell said that if the state went blue, he would put out a cover album of Georgia artists. It’s coming–2 REM songs and 1 from everyone from Drivin n Cryin and The Allman Brothers to Otis Redding and James Brown. Lot of guest artists too. I doubt it’s going to be mindblowing, but it ought to be fun for a side project.
September 24, 1991 was the day that Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik, The Pixies Trompe Le Monde, and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory were all released. Whether that’s the greatest day in music history or not I guess depends on how you think about those albums.
In an attempt to relive the rock lyric wars of the 1980s, the city of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is attempting to ban the public playing of music with explicit lyrics. Tipper Gore is tanned, rested, and ready!
Somewhat begrudgingly, I’m going to link to the Rolling Stone Top 500 songs of all time. This is a ridiculous thing to attempt and just pretty pointless. At least “Fight the Power” is #2. Jann Wenner is probably outraged that a song released somewhere not between 1965 and 1977 is that high.
The strongly negative impact of Spotify on music libraries. Again, if you care about your media, you have to own it in a physical copy or you are just asking some corporate raider to take it away.
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Sidelong
I appreciate a talent doing the outlaw country who is not only a woman and not only a lesbian single mother vegan who doesn’t drink at home but parties like an animal on the road, but all of these things and also being a good songwriter and not a poseur. The outlaw country thing has always walked the fine line of being about real life and being a caricature of itself. Hank III for instance does sound like his grandfather, but he’s a very limited songwriter who really wants to be playing metal. Shook’s songs about getting blotto to avoid men and then regretting everything the next day is a good honest version of her world. Not the one I want to live, but it’s hers. That she is a good songwriter within the genre’s limitations is also valuable. If this album had a hit, it’s “Fuck Up,” which also happens to be the least successful song released here.
Meat Purveyors, All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail
Always a good band, never quite pulled off a full album that was great. This 2001 release is a perfect example of their work–pretty good, the better songs front-loaded, some good covers combined with some pretty decent originals and a bit of filler. In the end, this was one of the seminal early alt-bluegrass bands within the alt-country scene of the 90s and 00s. I’m sure they were a hell of a lot of fun to see live. The albums…work fine.
Damu the Fudgemunk/Raw Poetic/Archie Shepp, Ocean Bridges
Remarkable, if perhaps about 10 minutes longer than it could be. It’s kind of amazing that Shepp is still moving the music forward at his edge. It doesn’t hurt that his nephew is the rapper Raw Poetic and if Archie Shepp was your uncle, wouldn’t you want to work with him too? Shepp always was perfect for this kind of thing, someone who was always experimenting and no only with noise but with spoken word material. Damu the Fudgemunk provides great instrumental work behind it all. Again, at nearly 70 minutes, it’s too long to hold together entirely. Cut out some of the weaker tracks (not that they are at all bad) and get this down to 55 minutes and you have yourself one excellent album.
Camp Cope, How to Socialise and Make Friends
Pretty good Australian writer with a very strong political sense and songs about the horrors of sexual assault and other horrors of the world. But I don’t why a band that is basically set up to be a punk band doesn’t rock more. It just sort of plods through musically and that’s a little too bad. Lot of talent here, not sure this works as well as it could. Let the guitars rip!
Suuns, The Witness
Somewhat interesting Montreal band with a strong electronic sound. This is supposed to be their most successful album and I believe it. It holds together pretty well, keeps the bombastic from getting out of control, and mostly is fun to listen to. I may need to hear this again to really get it. But I like the combination of electronic music with rock and roll. Probably not a great album, but a respectable one at least.
William Parker, Painters Winter
The great bassist, possibly the greatest jazz musician of the 21st century, releases another winner. In 2000, he released the astounding Painters Spring, with Daniel Carter on sax and Hamid Drake on drums. 21 years later, they decided to make a sequel. It’s pretty great too, an album that is avant-garde but which also remains listenable to those less impressed with the world of noise and experimentation. This is really modern jazz at its most interesting and accessible. You should check it out.
No one has put anything from this album on YouTube, so let’s listen to something off Painters Spring instead.
Blackberry Smoke, You Hear Georgia
Blackberry Smoke is a southern rock band’s southern rock band. It works real comfortably within the genre without ever really getting out of the booze-soaked lyrics and riffs. That’s fine. They produce solid music within the box. There is good guitar work. The lyrics are fine even if you know what you are going to get (cars, whiskey, sucky jobs). But there’s also a reason they’ve never had bigger impact. They are what they are. A known known, if you will.
Every now and then, I like to listen to something I totally missed at the time. Chumbawamba is an example. It’s a band I have known of for years but realized I never actually heard. So I decided to check out this album from 2000. It’s hard to know what to make of it. I enjoyed it at some level. They could sure do catchy well and some of that pretty political. On the other hand, the album seems to make little sense from song to song. I mostly like it, or at least found it fairly fun to listen to, which is really good enough. But I would not call this any kind of massive success or whatever.
Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever
A decent but overly long followup to her epic debut, Eilish is now in the difficult position of being a young global star. She still has her issues like any 19 year old. But how hard is it to deal with them when you are in the spotlight. She certainly addresses this in the music, such as the attacks on her look and her body. She’s pretty brave and outspoken and good for her. The question here is whether it is good for the music. The answer is that it’s not bad for the music. But she is in that space of how to move forward after an enormous hit album, something many artists with unexpected success have dealt with.
The Flatlanders, Treasure of Love
In the early 70s, the Lubbock based hippies Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely formed a band called The Flatlanders. They released one album after signing a terrible contract with the exploitation producer Shelby S. Singleton. It’s great, despite the saw being too high in the mix. Then they broke up and went their separate ways. Ely had some real success by the late 70s as a country-rock guy who became great friends with The Clash. Hancock wrote a lot of those songs and a lot of other songs as well. He never really could sing, but as a great songwriter, he always found work and has a number of good solo albums. Gilmore became bigger in the 80s, when he finally got a record deal and put out a few very fine albums with his cosmic country voice, often heavy on Hancock covers as well. They still played together sometimes and there is a very good Hancock/Gilmore live album from Australia. But it wasn’t until 2002 that they decided to reform as an occasional band. The results were mixed. Thirty years of different styles made it sound like they were three guys who got together for a side project, not an integrated band. Moreover, the songs often weren’t that great anymore. I saw them play in Santa Fe in maybe 2004 and it was more OK than great, disappointing to some extent, especially given that I’ve seen all three live and all those shows were better.
They released a couple more albums and then spent the last 10 years as senior figures of the country scene–touring a bit, recording a little bit, but not recording together. This is their return. It’s OK. But it’s not too much better than OK. Jimmie Dale stopped writing long ago and has gone these days to being a cover artist of classic country, which is fine but not as inspiring as it could be. Butch is still a good writer, but even here, a lot of the songs they record that aren’t covers are old Butch songs. For instance, the album starts with “Moanin’ of the Midnight Train,” which is a pretty good and little known song off his 1995 album Eats Away the Night. Ely sings it and he sings it fine, but this is not new material and it shows.
This is a completely acceptable set of country music from three legends that I love. But is this a necessary album? No.
Kero Kero Bonito, Civilisation
I don’t understand the appeal of early synth sounds in modern music. The early synth sounds didn’t exist because they were great. It’s that these were the best sounds the technology could produce at this time. Today, there are far superior forms of electronic music to use as a background and yet with some bands, the desire to relive 1981 remains strong. That was the first thing that came to mind while listening to this short album (actually two EPs thrown together) by the British electro-synth band Kero Kero Bonito. I’m not much of a dance guy anyway, but if I was, I can’t imagine not being annoyed by this on the floor as I would want to dance to sounds that weren’t just irritating. So yeah, this did not do much for me.
As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics or disease.