Friday, October 31, 2003

THE DECEMBERISTS and EARLIMART @ Mercury Lounge (New York NY) - Oct 29, 2003
I usually try to get to shows in time to see the opening band, for a number of reasons which I won't get into now, but I had such a busy day I was unable to make it there in time to see Pela or Dirty on Purpose. Well, I actually got there in time to hear the last measure of Dirty on Purpose's final song and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

I first saw Earlimart around the start of June when they also played at the Mercury Lounge. It was a deliciously moody show: the keyboards and mic stands were dressed in red Christmas lights, cricket noises looped in the background, the crowd was sparse, and the band was loose. In short, it was downright impressive and I bought the Avenues ep, which was very good and solidified the Sparklehorse comparisons I conjured up while watching them.
This time around the crowd was densely packed and the band, at first visually tired from months of touring, was much tighter. Maybe I just became used to the recorded band vs the live band, but they seemed much louder then I remembered them -- which was a good thing. There was also a lot of noise, and a lesser band could've easily let it slip away and turn messy, but Earlimart knew exactly what they were doing and turned everything into a gorgeous soundscape.
The friend I was with was impressed by their intensity but worried that a good live band like them would turn out uninspired recordings. While I've seen this happen with other bands, if the Avenues is any indicator, Earlimart may be the exception. If you haven't seen them play, and you can catch them before they make it back to California, please do so. Otherwise, you'll just have to wait until their next tour.

I read all the hype about the Decemberists but had yet to hear any of their music. I was really looking forward to it, especially since they were always tagged with Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons. Judging by the photos of the band in Civil War uniforms, I was kind of expecting a British Sea Power kind of show. This was not to be the case as both the band's dress and performance was conventional to indie rock standards, even if they use an accordion.
The show got off to a slow start when a couple of very good songs started to sound the same. Just when I began to wish they'd diversify their set, they did. Creating a fantasy world of songs about train engineers, chimney sweeps, and Turkish prostitutes, I was eventually sucked in and very impressed, although it was odd to hear an Oregonian sing in a British accent. My friend said they reminded him of Belle and Sebastian at times, which I heard, but I was convinced they evoked early David Bowie. As the main part of the set concluded with dueling guitars, I made a mental note to pick up Her Majesty, the Decemberists. Very good.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

In case you haven't seen Johnny Cash's last video, you really should. You can watch it here.
It's the most stunning and moving music video I'd ever seen.

[Thanks to Jessica for emailing the link to me]

Friday, October 24, 2003

I alluded to them in yesterday's post and have been listening to them quite a lot lately. As I was assembling the wall unit, I discovered Os Mutantes to be very good housework music.
I first found out about them earlier this year after reading an article. I couldn't help but be intrigued by both the description of their music as well as their very creative publicity photos. After a search of some record stores, I picked up Everything is Possible, a best-of/introduction to the band. To be honest, they didn't sound as strange as everyone made them out to be, but I still found them very enjoyable.

Os Mutantes were Arnaldo and Sergio Baptista (both brothers) and Rita Lee. The group made their official debut on a youth television show, hosted by their godfather, in 1966 and would appear often on the show. They eventually began to write their own material and soon fell in with tropicalia heavyweights Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, both of whom would write songs for the band.
Brazil in the 60s was filled with political upheaval (which, to be honest, I don't really know much about) and the tropicalia movement fell under suspicion of the government. Gil and Veloso were both exiled, but Os Mutantes escaped the brunt of the persecution. Thanks to their television appearances, they created a youthful and innocent persona and while the government knew there was something subversive about the Mutantes, they were never able to figure out exactly how. The band's use of electric guitars, however, earned them the scorn of leftists who accused them of selling out to North American imperialists. The Mutantes increasingly grew isolated and began focusing more on Anglo-American rock. Lee left the band in 1972 and they continued on through various incarnations until 1978 -- with Sergio being the only founding member left -- when the band called it quits.

Os Mutantes are one of those bands whose popularity grew after their demise. While their music was initially out of print, reissues have been made available in recent years as more and more people discover them.
For lack of a better way, I'd simply describe them as one part Brazilian and two parts psychedelic with a bit of enthusiastic fun thrown in. During their initial recording sessions, Lee showed up to the studio with a can of bug spray which she used to imitate the sound of high hats. Claudio Cesar, the Baptistas' older brother, created special effects and gadgets for the band, including an inverted wah pedal and a prototype voice box.

For more info:
While I doubt there's any official website for the band, Luaka Bop Records has a page devoted to the band where you can read interviews, listen to songs, etc. There's also an All Music Guide entry as well as a Brazilian Music Guide page for the band.
I'd imagine there's a bit more websites in Portuguese devoted to the band as well, if you know how to read it.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

In the final months of living in my old apartment, I embarked upon the ultimate project of musical geekhood -- I created an Excel spreadsheet to catalog my entire music collection. I made some serious headway, successfully documenting all of my 7"s and tapes as well as some cds (Adventures in Stereo through Neutral Milk Hotel). I'm not sure how many items I cataloged; I think I may have cracked 700 but it's also safe to guess I may still be a bit shy of 600. I still have the rest of my cds (New Order through Yo La Tengo, plus soundtracks and compilations) as well as lps to document, but my project was indefinitely sidelined when I moved in with my girlfriend and my cds spent months in a disorganized state.

We just got a wall unit to house our music library and I spent the past few days assembling it and organizing the cds. For the first time in my life, my cds are going to share a shelf with somebody else's and I must admit I'm a little worried. I can look at any piece of music (tape, cd, record) that I own and can tell you where and approximately when I bought it, or who gave it to me (if it was a gift) and approximately when. I've always been proud of my collection, even if I can't bear to listen to parts of it anymore, and feel like each component tells its own story and has been a special part of my life.
There are a couple of instances in which we now have doubles of a certain cd, then I must decide which copy gets put on the shelf and which one goes into a box in the closet. In some cases, the decision is kind of obvious -- for example, I dropped my Blur Modern Life is Rubbish not long after I bought it and the hinges broke off the jewel box so that's the copy going into the closet; her copy of Pulp Different Class looks like it was run over by a car and then backed up on for good measure, into the closet it goes! In other cases, her copy of Enon Believo! is in better shape than mine but I bought my copy from the band's bassist after a show while she bought her's over the internet. Call me a nerd, but I'm putting my copy on the shelf for sentimental reasons. But in instances where both copies are in similar shape, like Blur 13, I have no idea whose copy I put on the shelf and whose copy went into the closet. I'm afraid I'm losing the strong bond I cultivated with my collection over the years.

Another issue which has arisen is the organization of our music. I simply cannot live with a collection that is not organized alphabetically by the artist's name and then, if there are multiple releases by an artist, sub-organized in chronological order by the original release date. While my girlfriend thinks I'm taking the chronological order thing a bit too far, she did agree with the alphabetizing, EXCEPT we disagreed over how to alphabetize solo artists. I believe, for example, that Nick Drake belongs in the D section while she is of the firm belief he goes under N.
When she began the initial sorting process of our cds, I actually underwent emotional distress to watch her put Leonard Cohen in L and Jeff Buckley in J. We fought for a day over this and I prevailed, partly because I'm right and partly because she knows I would never shut up about it until I won.
So with a clear conscience and a smile, I set off on the arduous task of alphabetizing every cd in our apartment (I haven't even gotten to the tapes and records yet). More issues began to arise. I always drop the "the" from any band's name; the Beatles go in B and the Smiths go in S. Simple enough, but Thee Headcoats gave me grief. Should they go under T or H? I opted for T, and my girlfriend agrees, but I still have a nagging doubt I should've put them under H for some reason. And then what to do about bands named in foreign languages, like Os Mutantes or Los Lobos? Theoretically they should be filed under M or Lob, respectively, but I'm going for O and Los (I actually don't have any Los Lobos albums, put I figured they would make a good hypothetical example). If a band name starts off with a number, I just treat it as though the number were spelled out (4 Non Blondes go in F). But if the number comes later in the name, I treat the number as though it were at the top of the alphabet (I file U2 before Unrest, even though technically U2 should be viewed as a Ut). Should I ever buy a !!! release, I'm sure I would put it before the A section, although I've also decided I would put ? and the Mysterians in the Q section, after Queen.
Ugh. I'm getting a headache just thinking about all of this.

How does everyone else organize their own collections?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

ELLIOTT SMITH (1969-2003)
I was saddened to learn about the apparent suicide of Elliott Smith. During the Good Will Hunting aftermath, I was familiar with him through the hype but I hadn't heard any of his songs. That changed when my friend loaned me her Elliott Smith cds and I quickly became a fan.
By this point, much attention will be focused on his lyrics and the dark matter which may have predicted his demise. I happened to like his lyrics for the conversational style in which they came across, almost as if you were just sitting down with him and having a casual chat. But lyrics alone don't make songs good, and his talented guitar playing is testament to what made him such a great songwriter.

Not long after discovering his music, the same friend and I went to see him play at Town Hall. It was just him and his guitar, seemingly swallowed up by a big stage. He was definitely on that night and silenced the crowd as he tore through a set of songs, deftly showing off his brilliant guitar work and solid songwriting. In between songs, he was hit with a barrage of yelling from the crowd, either requesting songs or professing love/lust towards him. He shrugged off everything with shy and nervous comments.
After the show, my friend wanted to hang around and wait for him by the door. She was a big fan and painted a small picture for him. After a little while, there was a small crowd gathered around the door and one girl told everyone else she was going to lift up her shirt when Elliott came out (she'd chicken out). My friend and I separated ourselves from that group and eventually he emerged with a little entourage of friends.
The crowd immediately circled him and after a few minutes, Elliott said he had to go. As he started to walk by us, my friend called out to him and she gave him the picture. He asked if she painted it herself and when she said yes, he seemed genuinely flattered. Then he looked at me and we made eye contact. I wasn't going to say anything to him, but now that he was looking right at me I felt obligated to say something. Thinking about how stunned I was watching his performance and at his songwriting skills, I blurted out, "you're amazing." He rightly looked embarrassed and shuffled awkwardly about for a few seconds before saying he should probably catch up with his friends.

I saw him again this past summer at the Field Day Festival. It was pouring rain and his performance was sloppy. He was forgetting lyrics, messing up guitar parts, and ending songs early. There wasn't as much shouting in between songs, but he was still equally shy, humble, and charming. And every now and then he got a song right all the way through which made standing out in the rain to hear him so worth it.

Elliott was working on a new album at the time of his death and I was looking forward to it. It's quite a shame someone so talented had to go and do something so stupid.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

SEELY Winter Birds (Koch)
About a year and a half ago, I was playing in a band and one of my friends told me that we reminded him of Seely. I'd never heard of them so he gave me a few copies of their albums.
After listening to the cds, I didn't hear any similarities between my band and Seely but I still took the comparison as quite a compliment

Winter Birds, their fourth and final full length, is my favorite. A very warm sounding record, it masterfully blends rock, jazz, and electronica with a pop sensibility. More adventurous than their previous efforts, it's an airy atmosphere as each song -- very good in their own right -- contribute to creating a bigger, more complete album feel.

For more info:
I was unable to find an official site (or even a fan site for that matter) for Seely, but All Music writes about them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I really don't want to dwell on the separated at birth thing, but this one caught my eye this morning:
If You're Feeling Sinister Holiday
Belle & Sebastian vs Cinerama

Sunday, October 12, 2003

This looked like fun. Losing my Edge and Garagedream are holding a separated at birth contest. Here is my entry:
Let it Come DownBehind the Music
Spiritualized and the Soundtrack of Our Lives
I noticed a couple of other music blogs linking to mp3s on their site, so I thought I'd join in the fun. Without further ado,
Delia Derbyshire "Moogie Bloogies"
April March "Chick Habit"
Motel Creeps "Ocean Storm"
Seaside But Still Docked "Wendy"
the Units "1 2 No"
I just watched an old episode of Six Feet Under and they had a very cool scene that involved chanting Buddhist monks. It reminded me I hadn't linked to a couple of Dustbin articles lately. So, to make up for lost time:
classical records pressed in the 50's and 60's
Blind Willie Johnson
For years, I often felt the only redeeming factor about MTV was 120 Minutes. Rarely a week went by when I didn't watch the show and, as a result, stood silent witness to the show's unravelling.
The very first time I ever watched the show, I was in high school, Dave Kendall was host, and I was introduced to the Cure, the Sundays, and XTC all in one episode. My life was changed forever. Sadly, the show went from having hosts who honestly cared about indie music (Matt Pinfield is the textbook definition of a music geek) to personality-free MTV veejays (one guy actually told Liam Gallagher he was afraid of him).
The videos went downhill as well. When I first started watching, it was playing all the videos MTV would never air otherwise (Suede, the Smiths, the Charlatans, etc) and by its end was playing all of the usual MTV fare (Blink 182, Pearl Jam, etc) that was being pushed aside during normal hours to make way for more episodes of the Real World.
Eventually, MTV decided that Sunday nights from midnight to 2am was too good a time slot for the show and started pushing it back later. It finally went off the air, but I stopped watching MTV all together by then.

Now I have MTV2 and watch it because it -- shock, shock -- plays videos. Its best show is Subterranean, albeit with an awful time slot. I try to watch it each week, even if it is nowhere near as good as 120 Minutes used to be.
First of all, it's only one hour as opposed to two. Secondly, the guest band doesn't do live performances anymore and instead of interviewing the band in a normal setting, they're always standing in a basement or somewhere while the camera man tries to get edgy with his shots. Worst of all is the most annoying host of all time. Last night, he actually asked Gruff of the Super Furries if it was harder to get a driver's license in Wales than it is in the States, like how the hell is he supposed to know?

But I still watch it because they play videos that won't get aired on MTV2 otherwise. They actually got generous last night and, before airing Subterranean, aired an hour of Subterranean UK -- which, as you may have guessed, was an hour of British indie rock. In my younger days as a rock and roll Anglophile, I would've died at the thought of such a show, but it was kind of sad to see British rock of today reduced to a bunch of people trying to mimic the Strokes or Interpol, even if I thought the Libertines and Muse were quite good.
The regular Subterranean picked up a bit. They played another Libertines video ("I Get Around") which was really good and had a very fun, I dare to say early-Beatles, feel to it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" was the first time I was able to listen to the YYYs all the way through and enjoy it. The Ravonettes' "the Great Love Sound" is a great song and would've been the funniest video of the night had they not played Guided By Voices' "My Kind of Soldier."
All in all, it was a very fine night of television watching for those of us too lazy to go out on a Friday night.

PS: they didn't play any White Stripes this week, but they played their new video (I don't remember the title) last week, which just served to cement my belief that Jack and Meg are the undisputed champions of coming up with cool and original video concepts.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Corporate media whore sellouts. All of them.
I remember a few years ago when I saw an ad for Budweiser and they played the Sundays' cover of "Wild Horses." I almost choked. Over the course of time, I grew more and more disappointed as I began to recognize the songs being licensed for commercials: Blur for Intel, Elastica for Budweiser, the Shins for McDonalds, Nick Drake, Spiritualized, the Future Sound of London, and the Polyphonic Spree all for Volkswagen. I didn't even get to old punk stalwarts like Iggy Pop and the Buzzcocks being used in car ads! It was downright depressing.
In the past week, two more have been added to the list. Moondog was used for some car ad and the Cure was prominently played in a camera ad. The Cure selling cameras? Even worse, the song was "Pictures of You."

I remember a magical night in Pittsburgh more than a few years back when I saw the Cure live. I'd never liked "Pictures of You" very much but once they started playing it, a roar went up from the crowd and suddenly hundreds of people began dancing slowly while Robert Smith stood motionless under the lights just spitting out words in what was probably one of the most beautiful musical experiences I ever had. I was stunned and speechless; "Pictures of You" became one of my favorite songs off Disintegration.
Now they went and ruined it all. Whenever I hear that song again, I'm going to think of smiling models getting their photos developed. It's time to get that song and my skip button reacquainted again. It's disgusting.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was as into music as I am/was. Over the course of our senior year, we used to try to outdo each other in discovering new, and preferably, obscure bands. The more grating and noisy the band was, the better.
For a good part of the year, he held the honor of turning us on to Smut -- a riot grrl band whose Blood, Smut, and Tears sounded like a 30 minute scream. I would go on to score the grand coup d'etat, however, when I introduced my friends to Daisy Chainsaw.

I actually discovered Daisy Chainsaw during an episode of Beavis and Butthead when they aired a clip from the "Love Your Money" video, and I was floored. I never saw the video in its entirety, and don't remember much about it now other than seeing the singer in a torn dress stagger around the house and the drummer in a top hat sitting in a bathtub filled with some black liquid. And the song was really good too!

Daisy Chainsaw emerged in 1992 with the Lovesick Pleasures ep and released their debut full length, Eleventeen, later that year. Apparently, they made a name for themselves in their native Britain, but (despite the Beavis and Butthead appearance as well as a Roseanne episode in which Darlene goes to a Daisy Chainsaw concert) never received much notice in the States.

Even with a rather primal rhythm section and the violently noisy guitarwork of songwriter Crispin Gray, much of the band's charm was rightfully credited to singer Katie Jane Garside. Able to go from adorable pixie to screaming lunatic in under a second, her lack of predictability made the band exciting to listen to. I swear you can even hear her vomit during "Future Free."
Incredibly, for all of the band's strangeness, they never lose their pop sensibility. "Love Your Money" is a swinging, almost danceable, little number complete with buzzsaw guitars. "Dog with Sharper Teeth" and "I Hope All Your Dreams Come True" would not have sounded out of place on the radio in the early 90's. "Pink Flower" is a rave up which falls apart so perfectly towards the end, while "Lovely Ugly Brutal World" is just a gorgeous mess of a song.

Unfortunately, the sudden attention garnered by the band was too much for Garside to bear, causing an emotional breakdown or two, and adding chaos to their already chaotic live shows. She quit the band.
The band soldiered on, trying out new singers, and when they couldn't find anyone to their liking, Gray even tried to sing. They released one more album, You're Gruesome, before calling it a day.
Today, Garside and Gray are both in a new band, Queen Adreena.

For more info:
Daisy Chainsaw has no official website, but I found this fan site to be very helpful. In addition to Daisy Chainsaw, it also has some Queen Adreena stuff.
All Music also writes about them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I've been quoted. Zagat, the "famous restaurant guide," has decided to "move into musical terrain" and release a "survey" of the "1,000 top albums of all time," even though some "music geeks" may complain about the "ommission of some artists" ("What? Oasis but no Blur?").
A few months back, I filled out an online survey in which I browsed through a very long list of albums being considered for inclusion, picked out the ones I liked, rated them, and wrote little blurbs about them. I tried to be witty enough so Zagat would quote me. I'd since forgotten about the survey until my free copy of the book came in the mail yesterday.
I spent this morning thumbing through the book searching for albums I probably would've reviewed to see if they used any of my quotes. I found two which I clearly remember writing:

For the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, I'm the "Brian Wilson dropped acid, spoke with God and composed" guy, and for the Pogues' If I Should Fall From Grace With God, I'm the "when Irish trad and punk rock share a hookup" guy. I actually remember calling it a "drunken hookup," but I'm not going to argue.
I must admit, however, I feel slighted they passed on my "if the Ramones were the fathers of punk, the Velvet Underground were the degenerates who got the girl pregnant" line when reviewing the VU's first album. Oh well. Their loss.

If you're interested in the book, you can buy it here.

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