Friday, April 29, 2011

XTC - English Settlement

XTC – English Settlement
Virgin/Epic, 1982
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Price: $2.50

We’ve been listening to this album at work quite a bit lately. Some inspired soul keeps putting it in the CD player on the sunny days. Well, until someone decides to take it out because it freaks out the blue hairs. Personally, I think this is the sort of feel good record that hits all the little pleasure centers that pop music should hit while still remaining weird and cool and inventive and fun. The songs are like little road trips with friends. Full of side quests, pit stops, and diversions that only add to the overall journey of it all, “Jason and the Argonauts” in particular. “Senses Working Overtime” has become my defacto springtime jam and general thesis statement for the exhaustion of living. The soundtrack to having someone ask you “What are you up to these days?” and the only real response you have is “Working.” English Settlement has the same wonderful playfulness you find in Flying Nun bands and to an extent, the Australians. It’s fun, but not inconsequential. It’s just such a smart fucking record.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding

Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding
Columbia, 1967
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Price: $2

John Wesley Harding sounds like an exhalation after three solid, groundbreaking, and classic electric-Dylan albums. It almost seems slight, coming off of all that epic, legendary shit, but this record is loaded down with jams. It’s almost deceptive, how many stone cold killer tunes are on this album. “As I Went Out One Morning,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “All Along the Watchtower,” all run in a little row on the first side. John Wesley Harding seems to be touted as a return to roots of sorts, but Dylan sounds different here. More mature and wizened. Or something. Weird that he wrote a song about someone named Frankie Lee meeting the heavy metal band Judas Priest, weirder since the band didn’t even exist when the song was written! GO FIGURE! JUST KIDDING! Fun fact though, those heavy metal dudes got their name from “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” which makes them a bunch of country music loving wimps. Anyway, I’d never even listened to this album until now and it’s much better than I ever thought it would be despite all the five star ratings and such.

Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
Columbia, 1969
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Price: $2.50

I don’t think I ever listened to this album all the way through during my Bob Dylan phase a few years back. There was something really abherrent about the croon Dylan adopted for the record. Something like smooth jazz or something. Even “Lay Lady Lay,” the only real moster jam from this record, sounded like shit. And now, a couple years later, I’m changing my tune. It’s not great, but it’s fun and it’s cool to see Dylan’s shapeshifting to avoid being the mouthpiece of anyone’s generation produce listenable results. Well, then there’s Self-Portrait, but this is the last stop before the steam runs out and hey, it’s pretty good. And he got Johnny Cash to sing on a slowed down version of “Girl From the North Country” which is pretty cool! “I Threw it All Away” is an excellent track I would have overlooked had I not given Nashville Skyline a shot, so good for that.