Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Wall Of Death

Someday, a wise, enterprising label will reissue the-way-too-long out-of-print Fourth Wall by dada-ist pop funksters The Flying Lizards, and there will be much gnashing of teeth and wailing of overjoyed record collectors. Much more challenging and multi-layered than their self-titled 1979 debut LP (whose hit, Money, automatically appears on every "New Wave Of The '80's!" -type compilation you'd care to name), Fourth Wall was the album that dared to take their sound to another level, away from the tight-trouser dance rhythms that were then (and now) in vogue. Some of the shadings and textures of this record are more dense, atmospheric and ghostly, almost as if the band were attempting to record the very sound of death. Hell, they even got reclusive guitar maven Robert Fripp to play on this track, Glide/Spin. How cool is that? (Perhaps it was their way of apologizing for ripping off his Frippertronics technique on An Age). Until this fantastic album is reissued, I command every one of you to write Rhino Handmade and demand that they stop releasing forgotten Melanie albums and correct this gross oversight right now.

Ham-Fisted Comparisons

UK electronic/noise/pop outfit The Chap are frequently compared to LCD Soundsystem, but the similarities aren't as common as you'd think. For one, these Brit art-popsters are far too angular and experimental, which doesn't always result in getting butts shaking on the dance floor, even when operating within the context of the "broken heart" rock genre (check out Baby I'm Hurt'n for a good example). The closest they come are the occasional Soundsystem-style rave-ups such as I Am Oozing Emotion and Arts Centre, but even these are too abrupt and unsettling to be spoken about in the same breath as the DFA flagship. My advice: give their new CD, the oddly-titled Ham, a listen and decide for yourself. You can purchase it at Midheaven.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Manic Pop Thrill

Yes, yes, it's been nearly forever since I last posted. Blame it on Mark E. Smith. I've spent the last two weeks wading through the nearly 100 tracks of the Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004, an extensive boxed set recently released by The Fall. It’s highly doubtful that anyone but the most rabid enthusiast has listened to all six cds--more likely, each Fall zealot only has the time and interest to concentrate on their favorite era. Me, I’m a devotee for the ages: the early difficult and abrasive years, the melodic pop-oriented undertakings of the Brix years, the post-Brix efforts written in between rambling alcoholic brawls, the current century where Smith is more involved in toying with his false teeth than actually entertaining the masses, etc, etc. Here’s a number of tracks, (Industrial Estate, Who Makes The Nazis?, Cruiser's Creek, The War Against Intelligence, Hey! Student, Touch Sensitive) from pretty much every interval of this long-standing band's career, so you can pick your own personal favorite, all of them preserved for future generations thanks to our Lord and Savior in the Church of The Manic Pop Thrill, John Peel. You can buy this essential part of music history at Amazon.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sweet Home, Nagasaki

Instead of spending their time combatting illegal copying and downloading of music, the various recording organizations around the world should save their energy for fighting the proliferation of tribute cds. Honestly, now, do we really need tribute albums to Queen, Jack Johnson and even the Insane Clown Posse? On Matthew Sweet's 2003 release Kimi Ga Suki he takes it a step further by paying tribute (as it states in the goofy, gushy liner notes) to the entire country of Japan. I'm not sure how songs such as Spiral tie into a national conciousness, exactly, but it's a great marketing idea.  Think about it: if you pay tribute to Van Morrison, the most you can expect to net is his entire fanbase (how ever many of his fans are still alive), but if you pay tribute to an entire country, there's a good chance every citizen with a nationalist bent is going to pad your royalty checks for years to come. You can purchase Kimi Ga Suki at Paste Music.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Many Happy Returns

The Lexicon of Love, the classic 1982 album by ABC was much more of a chart-topper in Europe than it ever was in the US, which would explain why the deluxe edition 2-CD set reissue is close to impossible to find on these shores. If you're at all a fan of the original release, you will no doubt swoon over returning to this newly remastered pop masterpiece, as well as the surplus of unreleased outtakes, live tracks, demos and rare B-sides (such as the noir-ish croon-fest that is Theme From 'Mantrap') padded alongside the more familiar material. A good place to buy it, of course, is the UK arm of Amazon or HMV.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And My Religion Predicted It Better Than Your Religion)

Envisioning the apocalypse is not a new sport. If one chooses to interpret The Bible literally, there are a great many passages which spell out Jesus Christ's belief that the world would end during the lifetime of his followers (of course, this never came to be). In 968 CE, the army of the German emperor Otto III thought a common solar eclipse to be a sign foreshadowing the end of Earth (naturally, the end never took place). Using a complex mathematical formula, the idiots over at The Watchtower predicted Armageddon would hit in 1914 (when it inevitably didn't happen, they rationalized that 1914 was the year Jesus began his invisible rule over the earth). What I'm getting at is this: when you listen to The A Frames croon the title track of their latest album, Black Forest II, happily extolling the virtues of all living life forms departing this earthly burden, take it with the same grain of salt that the band does. You can buy this enjoyably plodding album at Sub Pop

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Bloody Little Rabbits

Rumor has it--a rumor traveling all the way from France to Arizona, mind you--that the French pop rock quartet The Little Rabbits have split up. Here, then, in tribute, are two rare tracks taken from Yeah! Remixed By, an EP of remixed tracks such as Pic Nic Boy, remixed by Solex and La Piscine remixed by My Bloody Valentine. The MBV remix is probably worth hearing just to remind yourself that Kevin Shields is still alive, while the Solex remix has a upbeat playful quality that is a joy to hear.  You can buy this sucker just about anywhere, but why not throw your meager support behind Discogs?

Monday, September 12, 2005

High Expectations Is The New Black

Did you ever love a band so much you were blindly convinced they were going to commandeer the pop charts in a violent bloody takeover? And when those high expectations didn't pan out, did it make you lose all sense of purpose in life and want to murder everyone around you in a frenzy of bullets and gore? Brother (or sister), I am right there with you. There was a short while when I was absolutely certain the Cupid Car Club was going to run for President of the United States, lose the election to a Supreme Court-appointed puppet regime, which would be overthrown by the entire band in an orgy of killing and stabbing and shooting after which they'd take power and declare hunting season on mediocre music. C to The Third Power (as I liked to call them when nobody was around) was James Canty, Steve Gamboa, Ian Svenonius and Kim Thompson, all of whom went on to form either The Make-Up or The Delta 72 or Weird War or...good gawd, I could be typing this list out all night--let the Band To Band website spell it out for you. They released one single (left) on Kill Rock Stars and then promptly split up. Join me, won't you, as we raise a glass to their memory and collectively bang our heads to Vapor Rub Out.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Second That Motion

Too messy and chaotic to make a dent in the rock marketplace during their initial formation, it's remarkable that the UK experimental punk group Swell Maps continues to inspire countless bands long after they played their last hurrah. Their 1979 release A Trip To Marineville is a personal favorite, densely packed with buzzing guitars, clattering rhythms and raw, urgent vocals. Much like The Prefects Going Through The Motions, Another Song starts out as somewhat of a love song (if you could call it that) but ends up being about the act of writing a song in and of itself, in the best bored-with-rock, post-rock tradition. Never mind that--just listen to that energy! If it doesn't make you pee in your pants with excitement, I'm going to come to your house and kick your ass. Secretly Canadian began re-issuing all of the 'Maps output last year, so I don't want to hear any more excuses about how hard their records are to find.

Moving Innn Stereo

Sometimes, your continued interest in a band is generated by their inscrutability over a period of time, usually ending when the band begins stepping forward for interviews or you finally see them on music videos. Up to that point, you can play their music and wonder, "Where did they come from?" and "Where did they get such an odd sound?" Of course, shrouded secrecy is no longer possible when every band can simply design a tell-all website, even for the cheesy Finnish trio Aavikko. It was a lot of fun a few years back when their cds and singles would mysteriously appear, usually without pictures or descriptions of the band. Now, sadly (or happily, depending on your viewpoint), I know almost everything there is to know about them. This track is from a limited-edition, double 7-inch release put out by Stereo Total, wherein 8 artists were asked to remix their seminal semi-hit, Holiday Innn. Aavikko's take (spelled as "Inn") was the most obtuse of the set, and although the single is now long out-of-print, the singles/outtakes comp History Of Muysic has included it to keep you in the know. You can buy it from the charmingly-named Stupido Shop, or from my favorite stand-by Aquarius Records.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I Predict A Riot

It probably had more to do with the social upheaval at the time, but right after Sly & The Family Stone released their moody and unsettling There's A Riot Going On in 1971, there seemed to be a flood of Soul groups recording songs (if not outright concept albums) urgently concerned with life how it was lived in Black urban areas. As a child, I seemed to think that Sly started it all but I was most likely incorrect. One of my favorites from that period is this epic mini-opera by The Temptations, entitled Masterpiece, (top left) released as a 7-inch single with the song spread out over both sides. I cherished that record in my youth. (I wonder where that record is now?) I was gratified to see that the European imprint of Motown has released this album as "two-fer" (along with 1975's Song For You, bottom left). The rest of the album may not hit as hard, but the intensity of this track alone makes it a worthy buy. You can get it from Soul Music.

Like Ever More

Nobody, but nobody does electroclash--does anyone still call it that?--better than the Germans. More proof you will not need: New Deutsch, a collection of cold and barren pop tones from the Der Fatherland, all of them devoid of warmth and humanity, which is what makes every single track so appealing. The tune Wie Werden Immer Mehr (Liebe, Brot, Einfacheit, Tod) is so lacking in English cognates, I can only guess what it's trying to tell us. Perhaps it's a musical warning that the toys inside every Kinder Uberraschung are too dangerous for anyone under 1 year of age. (Tell me something I don't already know.) You can buy this wonderful CD at Gigolo Records.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

They're Trying To Wash Us Away

A benefit has been scheduled--chock full of a multitude of pop, rock, rap and country acts--with proceeds going to victims of Hurricane Katrina. To name just a few of the many, many stars performing: U2, Alicia Keys, the Foo Fighters, Kanye West, Neil Young and, remarkably, Randy Newman. Hmm. I wonder which song he'll perform?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Before we return to my regular dribble of mp3 downloads, here are my highly opinionated takes on the best films I saw at the 32nd annual Telluride Film Festival. Try and guess how many times I had to utilize Spell Check and raid a Thesaurus:

Spirit Of The Beehive (1973), director Victor Erice's beautifully shot poetic meditation of remote landscapes, haunting dreams and the dangers of Spain's encroaching dictatorship.

The Passenger (1975), a stark masterpiece from Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Jack Nicholson as a man assuming the identity of another, with every long take creating large spaces of disconnect.

Army Of Shadows (1969), a passionate, personal film by Jean-Pierre Melville about the early days of the French Resistance in WWII, this tense noir explores many of the themes in his other works: betrayal, honor and shocking brutality.

The Child (2005), a simple yet moving story of immaturity, greed and salvation--a second Cannes Palme d'Or winner for the Belgium-born director siblings Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

Wanda (1971), written and directed by (and starring) the late Barbara Loden, this sadly overlooked drama is an almost cinema-verite study of a woman under the influence of everything but her own freedom.

Johanna (2004), a modern retelling of Joan of Arc reimagined as a harrowing Hungarian opera (directed by Kornel Mundruczo, with music by Zsofia Taller).

Paradise Now (2004), a controversial political polemic, written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, which follows a Palestinian suicide bombing from its fateful beginnings to its tragic ends.

Iron Island (2005), a terse allegorical tale by Iranian writer/director Mohammed Rasoulof.

Brokeback Mountain (2005), a love story which veers somewhat from its source (the original Annie Proulx short story describes the main characters as paunchy and unattractive--director Ang Lee instead casts them as slim muscular hotties), yet whose lesson of unrequited love still packs enormous power.

Sisters In Law (2005), a new documentary from directors Kim Longinotto & Florence Ayisi, investigates domestic abuse in Cameroon, West Africa, finding tragedy and triumph among a group of brave African women.