Tuesday, March 30, 2010

V/A - Four Songs by Arthur Russell

Various Artists – Four Songs by Arthur Russell
Rough Trade, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden Blowout Location, New, 2009
Price: $2

Curated by Jens Lekman, this is a small tribute album that probably made a big impact. I know I definitely sought out Arthur Russell's records after hearing this record. Something so haunting and beautiful, and really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Did I mention it's great? Verity Sussman of Electrelane opens the record as Vera November with a solo piano version of “Our Last Night Together,” which just kills. My love for Electrelane has been throughly expressed on this site, so no surprise there. Lekman covers what coincidentally ended up becoming my favorite Russell song, “A Little Lost,” via a solo-Kalimba (thumb piano) version. Also on board are Taken By Trees, who cover “Make 1, 2” and Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb who does “That's Us/Wild Combination” w/ El Perro Del Mar on backing vox. Every artist feels perfectly plucked to bring new iterations of Russell's haunts to life. Strangely, there are no cellos here. I thought for sure someone would bust one out, but nope! No cellos!

Hüsker Dü - Flip Your Wig

Hüsker Dü - Flip Your Wig
SST, 1985
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2010
Price: $8

Buy it at Insound!
I've been working my way through Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life lately. I never read the whole thing. It was assigned for my Pop Culture of the 1980s class and we only read the Black Flag chapter in that class, but I knew I wanted to read the rest of it someday. Fuck, that class was amazing, come to think of it. I mean, any class that requires you to read about punk rock is a good one, right, in particular that book. So I read the Minutemen chapter and then I skipped a bunch of pages and read the Husker Du chapter because, quite honestly, Husker Du is one of my favorite bands of all fucking time...in the future. When I'm 30, Husker Du will be in my top 5. There's some work to be done, but I know they will be there. I will obsess over Zen Arcade with the best of them. I know, I know. But right now, here's where I'm at: I adore New Day Rising and I wrote a song that directly references “I Don't Want to Know If You're Lonely” and that's my extent of Husker Du. But it should be more. Combining punk rock distortion with pop hooks is my goddamned bread and butter.

According to that book, this should have been Husker Du's major label debut. It's their most accessible record, apparently, and um, yeah, I kind of get that. It's catchy. But there's still a lot of New Day Rising in this one, after all, the records were released in the same year. 1985! Both before I was even fucking born! So yeah, writing about this record is weird. As if I know shit about anything, but Husker Du is the only band I deliberately steal from when I write songs. I long for Bob Mould's chord progressions. And Grant Hart's intensity in “Keep Hanging On,” fuck, to achieve that would be a goddamned dream. To find an album with at least four songs that leave me drained is a triumph. Blah blah blah blah blah. I felt like every song I ever wrote was just a different iteration of “Every Everything.” And how come I've never listened to this goddamned record before? Goddamnit. Goddamn, damnit. How does this band have two other records that are more highly acclaimed? Because this, my friends, is just tops.

It's alarming how well "Makes No Sense At All" syncs up with um, the theme song from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

But fuck if "Makes No Sense At All" is the most perfect blend of punk and pop ever. Listen to that shit! GODDAMNIT. GODDAMN GODDAMN A THOUSAND TIMES GODDAMN!

Various Artists - What's Up Matador

Various Artists – What's Up Matador
Matador, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $8

Another document of a time and a place, this time the late 90s with maybe the most reputable indie label of our time. Well, maybe Sub Pop is more reputable, but Matador's pretty close! This one's pretty diverse and has a couple of bands I've never even heard of and most of Matador's heavy hitters. Pavement covers Echo and the Bunnymen's “The Killing Moon” with pretty much awesome results. The GBV track is choice, and Tobin Sprout has a jam on side four! And Guitar Wolf! And the demo version of Yo La Tengo's “Don't Say a Word” which is just fucking plain gorgeous. Early Spoon, with the band really starting to come into their own. A typically pretty Cat Power track. On top of that, the liner notes are have these “Little Known Fact”s written by Matador that are full of sweet praise and...facts. Ex. “Chavez are often described as a “super-group”, but we've never heard of any the bands they were in beforehand. Their “Unreal is Here” video used 15,000 Smashing Pumpkins fans as unpaid extras.” “By the year 2000, every punk rock fan in America will have had the chance to play “Kick Out the Jams” with Guitar Wolf at least once.” “Vocalist Britt Daniel is much better looking without the sunglasses (and you can tell him we said so). If there's a better songwriter alive, please have him send us a tape.” It's sweet, and this is a great compilation full of bands that I like or bands that I should like. Fuck, this Tobin Sprout song is just so, so good. I do not know how that guy does it. The thing is, before I even got obsessed with GBV, his songs were always my favorites. “To Remake the Young Flyer” was the one that made me spend a good couple weeks with the holy trinity of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars and started this whole chain reaction of adoration. The Kite Tails even learned the Toby b-side “Dodging Invisible Rays” for a couple of shows! And natch, his solo stuff has always been pretty top notch. Not as frequent as Bobby P's, but most definitely more solid.

Friday, March 26, 2010

College Basketball: or How I Learned to not get Upset By KU Getting Their Asses Kicked and Love the Loss

I attended the University of Kansas for five years. It ended up being a colossal waste of money that I will be paying back for the next 30 or so years. I never really was one for school spirit or ever giving a shit about college athletics. From what I saw, the school spent more money on their football and basketball teams than they spent on putting decent teachers in the classrooms, and when you're paying a constantly rising tuition, that sucks.

Earlier this year, the KU Basketball team got in trouble. Of course, if you payed attention to their record, you know I'm not talking about anything that happened during the season other than Brady Morningstar's drunk driving incident which got whitewashed after the new year instead of him getting kicked off the team (honestly, this is Lawrence, do you think the authorities have the...authority to banish one of the team's great white hopes?). No, I'm talking about the basketball team getting into a fight with the football team in front of Wescoe Hall, which is easily the dumbest building to get in a fight in front of on campus. I mean, yeah, the football and basketball teams who represent the SAME FUCKING SCHOOL getting into a fight is beyond just plain goddamn idiotic, but in front of Wescoe? Seriously, this building was designed to be a PARKING GARAGE. I should know, I was an English major, and most of my classes were held in that sorry excuse for a "learning facility." But anyway, despite KU's basketball team possessing a whole hell of a lot of class and grace (thanks mostly, I think, to Bill Self whipping these guys into shape), they were mostly a bunch of dumbasses.

I mean, seriously, who picks gets in a fight WITH YOUR OWN SCHOOL? If you do shit like that, there are consequences. And I'm not talking about my famed "KU College Basketball Curse of 2005." Yes, it's true. I once cursed the KU basketball team due to traffic. I was going to see Sideways at Liberty Hall with my girlfriend at the time and it took us 40 minutes to get from Hashinger Hall to Liberty Hall. Thus, I cursed KU basketball and their unholy traffic and KU ended up choking in the second round. I don't like to take the blame, but I will. I'll also take the blame for a tornado demolishing Greensburg, Kansas in 2005, which I cursed after getting pulled over in that town during a 24 hour run from Phoenix to KC in the Summer of '05. I am sorry I cannot control my stupid whims, I really am. I thought the curse was broken after KU succeeded in capturing the whatever championship of whatever in 2008, which made 5 hipsters in a Lawrence upstairs apartment rejoice, hug eachother, and participate in loads of debauchary in the downtown area of our fair city of Lawrence that fateful evening.

So, basically, the whole season was a bad omen to begin with due to the players being a bunch of babies. I don't even know why the teams were fighting, I just know that they did, and that they did it on campus which completely undermines all of the grace and class they play with. So, maybe this is someone saying, "Hey, KU, yeah you had a great season and yeah, this is really the best team you've had in shit knows how many years, but they don't know how to behave like adults so they will be punished."

"And how will they be punished?" one might ask.
"By losing to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament."

There you go. And the thing is, if you watched that game, without any bias, you would have been rooting for Northern Iowa. Most people probably were, other than people who take brackets seriously. I mean, they were this nobody team from fuckneckville and they fucking trounced the #1 seed! I mean, how cool is that? And watching Ali Farokhmanesh hit that three with ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOBODY AROUND was really, really kind of beautiful. And you know why it was beautiful? Because it summed up everything KU was bad at, which was guarding the fucking perimiter. That whole game, dudes were taking shots from the outside and nailing 3s and the Jayhawks never, ever seemed to notice this. Well, not until the end, and even then, fucking Farokhmanesh got the ball, showed up at the three point line and stopped. Just fucking stopped! And then he had a thought process. The average player might have just gone for the easy lay-up, but given this game he most definitely thought "Shit, these guys suck at guarding 3's, and NO ONE IS AROUND and this is just like practice so why the hell not" and shot. A brilliant play, and they won the game and Lawrence got really, really angry. And people are still mad but I can't understand why.

And the thing to say is "it's just a game" but for most people it's not. I don't know why, but it's not. I'm sad, but only on a really cosmetic level. Really, I'm indifferent because whatever, it's sports and, to parapharse Spoon, if you have no fear of the underdog, you will most definitely not survive. KU played like absolute shit and got their asses handed to them and really, if you play a game that bad, no matter who you're playing, and you lose, you really can't be too bummed. You've just got to accept it and move on. I saw people CRYING that night, and tweets about Lawrence being on suicide watch and yeah, I'm sure that's just a joke but really? Even in the absolute of hyperbole would college basketball really matter to anyone that much? It's really fun to watch, but honestly, KU's basketball team had an off night and it was embarassing. Ok, move on. Boo hoo, Sherron Collins' last game was a really bad loss, ok, he moves on and probably makes millions of dollars and no one remembers it.

So, basically: everyone is going to be sad for a few weeks and then going to forget about it and eventually remember how awesome it was when KU won in 2008 and everyone got the day off school and got to flood downtown. Now some other town gets to have that! And really, is KU even worth having spirit for giving how little effort they put into their actual school? Like I said, one of their primary buildings is a would-be parking garage and only in my final semester did they make any improvements to it, and even then, those improvements were for staff offices and new desks (granted, the desks were AWESOME). But yeah, none of it matters, everyone will get over it, and no one will kill themselves because KU lost and blah blah blah blah blah.

I actually met Sherron Collins twice when I was working at Chase Court, a rather blah apartment complex near campus. Once he called up to pay his rent asking and upon my greeting simply said "Ya'll take cash?", to which I said no and instructed him in the ways of money orders. Then he brought one by and after that, I noticed that the manager had removed all of the KU basketball players' files which was kind of funny. The next time I met Sherron (as the announcers refer to him, which I think is a bit rude since I think it's more respectful to refer to an athelete by his surname, but whatever) was when he locked himself out of the weight room. And as I was walking down to the weight room with him I thought "Fuck, this guy is like, fucking famous in this town. People really respect this guy and this is like an US Weekly moment where it's like 'They're just like us! They lock themselves out of the weight room at their apartment complex.'" And you know what, I tried to remain cool about it but I still got excited because I knew this guy was hot shit and througout the season, he was and I always thought about that. And when he missed almost all of his shots against Northern Iowa, I thought about that same guy. Just like any of us, someone who is really good at one thing, and he's really good at basketball but like all of us, sometimes we fuck up. And it's usually at the worst possible moment, but we get over it and you know, life as we know it doesn't end. And think about how awesome it must have felt for those guys on the Northern Iowa team! Even that unfortunate looking neanderthal. I was secretly happy for them because really, how often do you get to beat the top dog? Not very often, that's how often.

Still, I still got pretty bummed when I saw those dudes crying on the court.

Various Artists - Rock Stars Kill

Various Artists – Rock Stars Kill
Kill Rock Stars, 1994
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

What is it with all these early 90s bands trying to sound like they're playing at 45 speed? The first song, by the aptly titled Tourettes, caused me to get up and check to make sure the button wasn't pushed in on the turntable. Now, this comp has a very strange and very awesome mix of bands. There's Japanese noise-weirdos Boredoms, Kim Gordon's side-project Free Kitten, indie-pop darlings Helium, Smog, Spinanes, fucking RANCID, and Kathleen Hanna doing a song for Evan Dando. It's all too thrashy for my tastes though. I mean, I can't imagine listening to this thing all the way through very often, other than for a few of the choice cuts here. Mostly, at least for me, it's more of a document of a time and place where everything was excited and noisy and full of energy and kind of sounded the same.

Diamond Rings - "All Yr Songs"

Today is the first day where I've not had to work at the store OR do some assigned writing thing and it is my first day off in a long time. I'm not even going to the gym, I'm that excited about this day devoted to sitting around the house, chillin' with the dog, working on ye olde rekord blogge, playing video games, and notably, listening to all the songs I've downloaded in the past couple of weeks that I haven't had a chance to listen to yet. This one, "All Yr Songs," is one I downloaded months ago and put on some work commute mix CD back in January. "What the fuck is this?" I wondered, as I listened to it ten times on the way to work and ten more on the way back.

This track is just wonderful. Just light and sweet and simple without seeming like it was thrown together like a lot of the hip new MP3 downloads I have sitting on my computer. Sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom, but with some actual honest to god pop songwriting talent. One of the most interesting aspects of this song is that it adheres to the tenets of the perfect song. Or, that is, it's two minutes and forty two seconds long, which I read was the perfect song length in an article once. Nowadays, every single mainstream rock/pop band has stretched the pop song out to 5+ minutes, filling those extra two and a half minutes with repetitions of the hook/chorus over and over and over again. I've always been attracted to shorter songs, not because of my attention span, but because I'd much rather listen to a song twice than one long version of it for five minutes. And no one wants to be succinct anymore! So when I hear a song like this, I just go "Yes yes, oh thank god yes" because damnit, it's catchy and when it's over I want to listen to it again immediately.

Sadly, I can't listen to any of this guy's other songs because some rap song is playing over his myspace, but honestly, I'm ok with that.

MP3>>>>>Diamond Rings - "All Yr Songs" (via P4k)

A Pretty Goddamned Exciting Radio Rip

I'm finally listening to that new National track that played on some radio station and quickly made its way around the nerdy internet at light speed the other day. I think I read about it at work, downloaded it when I got home, passed out, worked all day, I don't know, it's all a blur, I finally just listened to it...like three times. And it's pretty fucking good. It's fitting, listening to this shitty radio rip because the first time I ever heard the National was on the radio, and no, it wasn't hip-cool college radio, it was on 96.5 the Buzz and I don't know why the hell I was listening to that station. I can't remember, but I do remember hearing the little lead-in bit with all the quick cuts and radio buzzing shit that was all "If you like Interpol, then the National is your new favorite band" and then busted out "Mistaken for Strangers." And I hated it immediately. Not for any real reasons, just because any band that allowed themselves to get sold like that must be in it for some dubious reasons.

And then blah blah blah, heard "Fake Empire" was like "oh gawd, this is so great" and now High Violet is most likely going to be the only new album I buy on vinyl this year. I might even avoid the leak when it inevitably gets shoved in my face. It's almost strange knowing that you're going to love an album. Almost like the opposite of disappointment. There was something about their performance of "Terrible Love" on Fallon that really just caught me, caught me in the same way that Grizzly Bear did when they played "While You Wait for the Others" on Conan a year and a half before Veckatimest came out and while I was mistaken about that record being as amazing as that song led me to believe, people still thought that album was way good. But after hearing "Bloodbuzz Ohio," goddamnit, I just want to put this at the number one record of 2010 spot and write a review about it before I ever even hear the fucker. In my head, this is what American music sounds like. There's something smoky and mysterious about their records, but also something that hits dangerously close to home. It's like the musical equivalent of an Edward Hopper painting. Deceptively simple sounding but remarkably complex and endlessly gratifying and never, ever outdated. I mean, as much as I love the Hold Steady with all my heart, and as much as I will love them until the day I die, their records are always going to remind me of my early 20s whereas these last couple National records and this forthcoming ones are going to be the shit kids are going to be combing used record stores for twenty years from now.

Hot damn! Apparently 4AD dropped a legit MP3 of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" after the radio rip leaked! Brilliant! It's a pretty fine song. As usual, it doesn't really jump out and completely knock you out right away, well, maybe it does for you. What I love about the National is the replay value. I listen to it once through, say "that was good" and immediately I'm listening to it ten times in a row and by the end of those ten times I've lost my shit. Images start sticking out as potent and gripping. "I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees." "Stand up straight at the foot of your love." It's just a goddamned beautiful song. I have about five or six more listens through this thing since I started this post and I think five or six more before I can get to sleep.

MP3>>>>>The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (via highviolet.com)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Teenage Fanclub LP on the Way!

So, a new Teenage Fanclub LP couldn't come at a better time. I've recently fallen into a Guided By Voices-like obsession with the group as of late thanks to the CD store I work at having a copy of their "Shortcut to Teenage Fanclub" comp on hand. The new record, Shadows, drops June 8th on the almighty Merge Records. The track they leaked with the announcement, "Baby Lee," isn't as great as I would like it to be, but I'm excited nonetheless, but mostly because in iTunes "Start Again" just started up and I realized that maybe Teenage Fanclub will tour the States and how I might just die if that happened. DIE OF SHEER POP BLISS! And ok, yeah, I just listened to "Baby Lee" again and I think this just became my most anticipated record of '10! And really, how many bands have THREE AMAZING SONGWRITERS WHO ARE ALL EQUALLY GOOD? Really, how many?

1. Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything
2. Baby Lee
3. The Fall
4. Into The City
5. Dark Clouds
6. The Past
7. Shock And Awe
8. When I Still Have Thee
9. Live With The Seasons
10. Sweet Days Waiting
11. The Back Of My Mind
12. Today Never Ends

MP3 >>>> Teenage Fanclub - "Baby Lee"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dr. Worm

I've been listening to the They Might Be Giants Dial-a-Song compilation every day at work. It's not a great compilation, and I usually get burnt out about 3/4 of the way through each disc, but there are so many gems! Maybe if I'd grown up with They Might Be Giants, things would be better. But I didn't. Actually, that's a lie. One of my first musical memories was buying the "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" cassette single at a garage sale when I was very young, and becoming obsessed with that song. Now, it's "Dr. Worm," which has evolved into a very, very strange persona I've undertaken to amuse my girlfriend. Notably, it involves me wriggling around on the floor trying to crawl out of the bedroom without using my hands.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Various Artists - Fortune Cookie Prize: A Tribute to Beat Happening

Various Artists – Fortune Cookie Prize: A Tribute to Beat Happening
Simple Machines, 1992
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2008
Price: $7

Purchased at the height of my K Records obsession (I still someday want to get a K tattoo on my upper right arm, but only after I am no longer convinced that people won't just think I'm obsessed with Kurt Cobain), this is a pretty sweet-ass compilation of Beat Happening covers. Despite coming out the same year as Beat Happening's final album, You Turn Me On, Fortune Cookie Prize culls mostly from tracks from their first album. There are a couple from Black Candy, one from Jamboree and one from Dreamy. Honestly, my only beef with this record is that A.) There could have been more songs and B.) It's lacking the hits. But that's you know, kind of what makes it cool, sorta. I also much prefer Teenage Fanclub's cover of “Bad Seeds” to Scrawl's. Oh, and also balancing out the cool is the roster, featuring such 90s indie-rock luminaries as Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, Unrest, Superchunk, and Velocity Girl. Super rad Australian band and K Recs affiliates the Cannanes are on it too! The Kite Tails once attempted a cover of “Black Candy,” which was awesome but I don't think we ever played it live because it was impossible for me to sing as low as Calvin and when I tried I was mostly inaudible. Kim Gordon sings it way better on this comp. I've always wanted to do a cover of “Godsend,” too, one of the great overlooked tracks of Beat Happening's spectacular career. I mean, how many bands are there that never have a slump? I mean, it's not like they were setting the bar TOO high, but in an era when bands try to replicate themselves album after album Beat Happening managed to improve upon their simple formula album after album and are totally deserving of a tribute album!

Here's a little video for one of my favorite Beat Happening songs that's not on this comp, "Tiger Trap."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Various Artists - International Pop Underground Convention

Various Artists – International Pop Underground Convention
K, 1991
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $12

This is a document of what was probably the greatest music festival of all time. Well, in my pop kid head that's what it would have been. The whole legend of this festival/ “Convention” is recounted in Michael Azzerad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, and is full of awesome little anecdotes about things like Ian MacKaye working as a ticket taker and detailing the anti-corporate community-minded mindset of the International Pop Underground. All of this was spearheaded by Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson and goddammit, I wish I could have been there. But I was five years old when this happened, so I'll live with just having this record. Everything here is noisy and sloppy and thoroughly badass...well as badass as indie-pop can be. Ok, it's not all indie-pop. Fugazi is on this! As are Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Melvins, Unwound, and L7. There's a nice offering of awesome indie-pop jams, naturally, including entries from the Pastels, the Spinnanes, Rose Melberg, and naturally, Beat Happening. The Pastels' “Speedway Star” sounds exactly like the kind of live performance I'd like to play. The jangly guitars, off-key vocals, and lots of under-mixed vocals. It's all quite DIY to the max, fighting the “corporate ogre” Johnson describes in the liner notes. Sadly, a lot of this is hit or miss for me and it mostly just makes me wish I was there because I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. A bunch of hip, fey twentysomethings in cardigans rocking out. The Spinnanes “Jad Fair Drives Women Wild” rules though. RULES. There are just too many screamy, shambling bands that sound exactly alike on this record and it gets old after a while.


Various Artists - Getting Older: The Flying Nun Retrospective Compilation 1981-1991

Various Artists – Getting Older: The Flying Nun Retrospective Compilation 1981-1991
Flying Nun Records, 1991
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $15

This is probably the best compilation I own, and strangely, features my three favorite Flying Nun related songs. It's a strange twist of fate. The album opens with the Clean's “Getting Older,” which is one of those songs that changed my life. Needless to say, it's my favorite track in the Clean's outstanding discography and I remember the first time I heard it. Nick Dormer called in to one of my shifts at KJ and demanded I play it, especially after I'd told him I'd never heard it. And I had a moment, one of those moments where your life is going to be different after hearing a particular song. Like there's my life before “Getting Older” and my life after “Getting Older.” It's a song that gets better with age, as I'm persistently getting older and not knowing why, and not knowing what to do. This compilation also has “Rolling Moon” by the Chills, which I first heard on either Gabe or Justin's Alternative Flashback on KJ. I can't remember who played it, but I'm sure both of them know the song and both of them love it because it's a goddamned masterpiece. I know “Pink Frost” is typically understood to be their monster jam, and I love that song but as soon as that little bit of the echoy riff hits in the first ten seconds of the song before the drums kick in, I get a woozy feeling. It's a perfect pop song. Also on the comp is Chris Knox's “Not Given Lightly,” which could very well be the greatest love song of all time...that no one has ever heard. It's one that you sneak on to a mixtape to make a girl fall in love with you, just absolutely incredible and while Knock is best known as ½ of Tall Dwarfs, this is his masterpiece. In addition to those three unfuckwithable tracks, there are excellent entries from The Verlaines, Bird Nest Roys, Able Tasmans, the Bats, Look Blue Go Purple, and Straightjacket Fits. It's an excellent starting point for someone looking for a primer in Flying Nun Records, and one that shows what you can do when you're country wants to promote an arts scene and gives you money to make weird little pop records and create a sound that is incredibly distinct and that will inspire artists around the world. This is why New Zealand is awesome. Right here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Various Artists - Lonely is an Eyesore

Various Artists – Lonely is an Eyesore
4AD, 1987
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $6

I don't know what compelled me to buy this. Probably the 4AD logo on the back. However, the label has grown significantly since 1987, notably growing into my comfort zone. Gothy, post-punky, dreamy weirdness isn't necessarily where I live. I do like the Cocteau Twins, though, but I hate Dead Can Dance. My layman's description of this would be that it sounds like Joy Division without the awesome beats and basslines and like the Cure without hooks. Like if every song was the verse for “Let's Go to Bed”...or maybe just this creepy Wolfgang Press song. I am digging all the drum machines, though. Apparently this album came in a “wooden box” limited edition, which featured the recording on LP, CD, cassette and VHS, which is kind of neat, and would be neater if this compilation was more substantial. The Throwing Muses song is kind of a jam, though. I REALLY dislike Dead Can Dance, all that weird gothic wailing just sounds like mush to me. I feel like I should be wearing a cape once I get to the end of side two. And that I should have fangs, and be standing on a spire in a thunderstorm, watching a horsedrawn carriage riding off into the storm.

How strange! Both of the comps covered so far have a song called "Fish" on them! Here's Throwing Muses' "Fish."

Various Artists - Tuatara

Various Artists – Tuatara
Flying Nun Records, 1985 (Strange Weekend US reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $10

This, along with the Topless Women Talk About Their Lives comp, was my introduction to Flying Nun Records, which would eventually become one of my favorite labels in the history of music. It's amazing, how this little island nation at the bottom of the world could basically figure out indie-pop in a way that was slightly different from what was going on in the UK and in the States and put out some of the most outrageously good tracks and bands nobody's ever heard. Tuatara kicks off with the Clean's awesome instrumental “Fish” and the whole first half is dedicated to bands whose stuff is really, really hard to find. Even on bittorrent. The Gordons, Fetus Productions, Children's Hour, I can't find their stuff anywhere! “Pink Frost” by the Chills is here though, and jesus christ, a jam like that is worth $20 on its own. It's also got “The Brain that Wouldn't Die” by Tall Dwarfs, who I'm only now getting into in a sad way. Chris Knox, as you may know, recently suffered from a stroke and a whole bunch of awesome artists put together a two-disc comp of Tall Dwarfs and Knox-related band covers, and this is what has led me to listen to the originals with vigor.

There are plenty of gems here. The Verlaines “Death and the Maiden” embody the word “jangly” in terms of guitars and is a perfect little capsule of a pop song that could put most mainstream pop groups to shame. AND it features a weird, woozy little carnival organ solo (like one of my other favorite songs from the southern hemisphere, “Annabel Bleach” by the Ampersands (which will be coming up shortly in the 7”s section) seemingly out of nowhere for a half a minute before launching back into the song. The gatefold has a little bio about all of the bands, which is totally rad. Pictures too! Some bands, like Children's Hour have a hardcore post-punk bent, but mostly this is a mass of indie rock gold, catchy indie pop jams and just plain weirdo shit (see: Marie and the Atom's hauntingly odd “Isol”). Awesome comp, weird comp, totally worth having comp.

"Pink Frost" as performed live by the Chills!

End of Z

A through Y = $2502
Z = $1
A through Y + Z = $2503

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy

Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
Asylum, 1978
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $1

Warren Zevon perpetually sounds like an old man, and it works to his advantage. I knew this was his, you know, “Classic” record and for $1, I think it's pretty much a steal. This is a fantastic record and triggers the sensors in my brain that have a firm fondness for Harry Nilsson. AND it's got “Werewolves of London” on it, which has always been a jam for me since I was a kid. I listened to Zevon's final record (before his death in 2003), The Wind, at work the other day and while I didn't like it much on an aesthetic level, I thought it was pretty awesome. There's something about looking death in the face and saying “well, bring it on” that makes that record really powerful. And getting all your famous friends to pitch in, it's almost like a tribute to yourself before you're actually dead. A way to go out on top, sort of. But Excitable Boy, fuck this is a good record. I mean, the title track pulls of a sax solo and the only other person that pulls off sax solos (for me, at least) is Springsteen. “Accidentally Like a Martyr” is one of the best songs I'd never heard until just now, when I listened to this record. It's like the song you hear in a movie during some huge, transformative moment and you're like “Who the hell is this?” It captures heartbreak without being melodramatic. There's something so matter of fact about it that captures the feeling perfectly. That “what the hell do I do now” feeling after someone's gone. Honestly, this song feels like a touchstone for Jason Molina, and come to think of it, I remember him doing a cover of “Werewolves of London” at one point, so that makes sense. But yeah, this is like classic rock for nerds without muscles and trans ams, and that is helping me love the shit out of this record. And closing with the righteous jam “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” well, you can't really go wrong.

Friday, March 12, 2010

End of Y

A through X = $2411
Y = $91
A through X + Y = $2502

ALMOST THERE! Or, almost done with the LPs. All that's left is one Z, which should be up today, a handful of comps and the LPs I got for Christmas that I've been saving for the very end. And then the real fun begins with the 7"s. I'd love to start putting up MP3s of some of these, because there are some amazing songs coming up, but given that blogger has been DESTROYING any blogs that so much as BREATHE on an MP3, I better not.

Hopefully it doesn't take me 2 weeks to get to the 7''s though, busy times around the office (i.e. my living room, where I am currently sitting)! Lots of Pitch stuff, lots of regular work stuff at the CD Tradpost, lots of comix drawing, lots of playing actual music and writing actual songs for the first time in months. AND, I've been secretly buying records again. It's a cruel mistress, Love Garden. They recently obtained a massive collection of all the kinds of records I hope to find there some day, and I simply avoided the place for a couple of weeks to keep myself from doing something stupid. Finally, I went in to survey the damage and see if there were any scraps to pick up and blew about $20 in two days. Not bad, considering my track record (See: $2502 so far...), but still, money doesn't grow on trees like it used to (see: my student loan days, which I now realize were foolish, very, very foolish). However, I've decided the best way to satisfy my desire to own records is to stick almost exclusively to 7"s. They're more fun to listen to, and I really love b-sides. And Love Garden is VERY good at making me second-guess my budget. Like, I bought the 7" for Teenage Fanclub's "The Concept," one of my favorite songs of all time. It was the shortened version, lacking the guitar solo that I get sick of about a minute and a half before the song ends, BUT the next day I saw that they had the same single on 12"! And I ALMOST BOUGHT IT...and I might still buy it. Goddamnit. Not to mention a Sarah Records single by one of my favorite Sarah bands that I really should have bought by now but am fighting!

Anyway, it's been busy and I've been poor. Naturally, when I finally started to have some spending cash I slipped on some black ice on the front stairs and destroyed my laptop screen which, thanks to my buddy Andrew, only ended up setting me back $160 but still! Funny, though, the laptop broke my fall and now it's bent. As in, I put a disc in and it spits it right back out because the goddamned disc drive is dented! It works, so there.

AND THERE ARE 8 MILLION SHOWS THIS WEEK. Is anyone going to Surfer Blood at the Reeps on Saturday? I only just realized it's the same night as the Kid Congo Powers show across the street at the Jackpot and I REALLY WANT TO GO TO THAT and I'm pretty sure most cool people will be at that show. But Surfer Blood = getting paid to write about, so that's where my heart lies. That, and their debut LP Astrocoast is the jam. Should have a Gut Feeling reev of that up soon, come to think of it! AND the rating system has been expanded...or will be, as soon as I ink the drawings for "Real Goddamn Good" and "Hella Fuckin' Good," or whatever they are.

For no reason, here is a picture of what the dog is doing right now, inspired by this afternoon's reading of Dave Eggers' short story "After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned," which is told from the point of view of a dog.

Neil Young - Harvest

Neil Young – Harvest
Reprise, 1972
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
Price: $7

I like Harvest more than After the Goldrush (ok, they each have their own merits that I am falling in love with) but I'm still not sold on Neil Young. I think he's a great songwriter, and but sometimes I think covers of his songs are better than his. Like St. Etienne's “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” which was my introduction to the song and once I heard Young's version, I was a little let down. Mostly, I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about because I feel like I'm going to get really into Neil Young once I turn 27, but right now I'm still too much into mid-90s indie rock guitar solos. I do love the use of the London Symphony Orchestra on “A Man Needs a Maid” (but I don't like how the Orchestra makes “There's a World” sound like a song from a Disney movie). There's such a grandiosity to that song that really, really works for me. “Heart of Gold” is probably my favorite Neil Young song because it's the one I've heard the most, probably on the jukebox at Harbour Lights. “Out on the Weekend,” “Old Man,” and “The Needle and the Damage Done” also slay. You know, maybe I just want more guitar solos with Neil Young. Like “Like a Hurricaine.” That's probably my favorite Neil Young song, and it's mostly because of how badass and end-of-the-world the guitars sound. I forgot how good “The Needle and the Damage Done” was, and I can't remember why, but I got REALLY into this song a few months ago...or someone's cover of it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Neil Young - After the Gold Rush

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
Reprise, 1970
Acquired: Love Garden Shotgun Room, Used, 2008
Price: $1

I don't know why, but I've never really given Neil Young a shot until very, VERY recently. Mostly, I just thought he sounded like an old woman and yeah, his melodies are great, his guitar solos are wicked, and that cover of “Cortez the Killer” that Built to Spill does led me to seek out Zuma, but yeah, something never grabbed me. Something still doesn't grab me. But I do enjoy listening to his records, and anytime he comes on the radio it's a pleasant surprise. And I love Magnolia Electric Co., who have clearly been VERY influenced by Mr. Young (why, just read any music review of that band and his name is sure to pop up). Ok, so what I know now is that I should listen to more Neil Young because I really don't, and this is necessary. At the store today, I was looking for the greatest hits collection we had, but I remember I hard-sold it to someone for some reason, all “oh, Neil Young is great” and now I realize I could have spent so much more time with that CD! Honestly, the only song I don't like here is the cover, “Oh, Lonesome Me,” which just pales in comparison to Young's own songwriting on this record, so it makes sense. I was wondering why it sounded corny. But “Don't Let it Bring You Down” follows up and that track fucking slays. Basically, this is like some shitty band I found, signed to my major label, and have ignored for a while but eventually, they'll start paying off and I'll be rolling in cash. In this case, Cash is understanding why people love Neil Young and loving him myself because, yeah, this is pretty good. And my favorite parti s how “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” should sound cheesy and lame but it's so fucking affecting it breaks my heart a little. And you contrast that with the pseudo-southern rock of “When You Dance I Can Really Love” it really makes this album kind of epic.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why I Hate Going to Shows In Lawrence: Reason #1

Apparently, there's an unwritten law that once an artist drops into the “hushed” range, you are allowed to talk over the music. It spreads like a forest fire too. First it's the people somewhere behind you in the back where people usually talk, but then it moves to the people directly behind you. Then the people right next to you, and then the people right in front of you who are standing two feet away from the person who's singing. And then it sounds like some sort of art piece. Put a really quite singer-songwriter on stage and see how long it takes for people to drown out his music. I know concerts are very much a social gathering kind of thing, but maybe I'm just old school in believing that when someone is playing REALLY quietly you either a.) go outside if you want to talk and you're not into it or b.) watch just as quietly as the person is playing.
So anyway, if you haven't gathered this is what happened at the show at the Jackpot last night. I've always given Lawrence shit for being a town that prefers chatter over music, but there have been shows when audiences have behaved themselves. I remember the Kings of Convenience show years ago, the one where Feist opened and no one had ever heard her and everyone in the jam packed Bottleneck was absolutely still and quiet with the exception of a few “holy shit, she's amazing”s. I don't think it should be selective though. Maybe that's why the Chomp Womp kids play so loud. I mean, that's not the reason I know, but at least no one can physically talk through their sets. That's why I always wanted to play loud in the Kite Tails, because once we played a slower song I could hear the people talking, and I could see the people talking, and it didn't really bother me very much but I did try to make my face contort into a “Bob Dylan singing 'Idiot Wind'” kind of disposition.
We were never as quiet as Blakey Bear though, and I've never, ever been part of such a disrespectful audience. God, I sound like someone's mom...or a nun. But really, I always thought there were rules of common courtesy but apparently no on gives a fuck because at one point, EVERYONE was talking and talking louder and I literally couldn't hear a damn thing Blake was singing. So I left and went outside and just sat. And then I went back in, hoping things had changed and of course it had just gotten louder. It's like, everyone WANTS to talk, but it's not OK until the people next to you are and then well, what's the point of coming to a show if you just want to talk and you don't want to watch the bands? Even if it's not your thing, you can go outside and have a cigarette or go sit in the back. It was embarassing.
I don't know if I can say the same for KC, but I've generally had a better time at shows there. At least during Low everyone sat on the floor and it was totally quiet, so quiet that I could get upset about the a-hole behind me snapping pictures the whole time. It's funny, too, because Jenny and I saw Blake play at Wonder Fair a few weeks ago and it was packed and dead silent throughout his set. Although, everyone there was at least 25 or older, so maybe that's the thing. You put college kids in a bar where they actively go to see bands, and they will talk over the bands. I'm just downright amazed that people would pay to go to a show and then talk through it. And then probably go home and blog about it. Maybe I don't notice these things as much because this was the first show I WASN'T covering for the Pitch since like, October. The first one I'd actually paid to get into, to go and see some newish local bands and just watch music without taking notes and without over analyzing anything. And we ended up leaving after Blake's set because if you stand around too many assholes for too long, you're bound to become one of them.