Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Baffling Music I Listened To In The Days Of My Sappy Youth (Before I Discovered Punk Rock and Everything Changed For The Better) (Part 4)

That slamming sound you hear is from the collective jaws of my readers hitting the ground after hearing me admit to once liking the oddball collection of studio outtakes Garden in the City from Earth-mama songstress Melanie. If you're unfamiliar with her work, she's the aural equivalent of a doe-eyed pastel-shaded Margaret Keane painting.

I was introduced to her granola-infested oeuvre through a friendship with my high school's Freshman rebel. He seemed to abide alone (the parents he professed to live with were always away on mysterious "camping trips"), he sometimes smoked cigarettes and frequently got sent home from school for refusing to wear shoes. His unexplainable affection for this LP of boho folkie musings should have given me pause, but his outsider status amongst our age group drew me towards it all the more--it seemed to me just one more intoxicating swirl of icing on the iconoclast cake.

At the time, my alarming ignorance of rock history strengthened the assumption that Don't You Wait By the Water was a vérité recording of purist backwoods blues and that Lay Lady Lay was a Melanie original (after finally hearing Dylan's "cover", its curious lack of flute freakout left me wanting). Listening to the painfully sincere title track as an adult causes my eyebrows to arch ever upwards: why the freaky pronunciation of the word country? How can you befriend a cloud? To paraphrase Carla Bley's reaction to The Shaggs: that song brings my mind to a complete halt.

Although Garden in the City was not a chart-topping mega-hit, Melanie would later find fame via her soft-porn pop hit Brand New Key, as well as renewed celebrity amongst indie hipsters after being recruited by Stephen Merritt as a vocal guest of The Sixths. Garden's closing track (People in the Front Row) cemented its place in the pop pantheon after being sampled by Australian rap act Hilltop Hoods.

My shame over once favoring this musical transgression has never wavered. As soon as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame installs confessionals, I'll be the first one in line chirping my Act of Contrition.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disco:Very Translates a Very Bad (Overly Long) Press Release for Harper Simon

"Give a listen to Harper Simon’s shining solo debut and you’ll soon recognize that he is much more than just a shooting star."

[Translation: Harper's father is Paul Simon.]

"Harper Simon is the work of an exceptionally gifted singer-songwriter and guitarist who’s clearly discovered who he is and found his own way and as a recording artist in a time when the very concept of recording an album seems threatened."

[Translation: By focusing on the supposed demise of the album as an art form, which is a complaint one tends to hear from past-it no-longer-charting folk/pop singer-songwriters of the 1960's, it allows us the opportunity to subversively remind you that Harper's father is Paul Simon.]

“The long playing album is the great artistic medium invented in the second half of the 20th century,” says Simon. “The long playing album is not just ten songs thrown together randomly. It has an arc. It has a structure. It is the attempt to make ten songs that are all as good as each other, and fit together in a seamless whole. Long playing albums like Sgt Peppers, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Sticky Fingers -- these albums have helped define our culture. When I was making this record, I was very conscious of making a record that was an homage to the LP.”

[Translation: Why did we casually allude to "Bridge Over Troubled Water"? No reason. No reason at all.]

"Simon recorded his new album in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles with the help of an altogether impressive and decidedly eclectic and multi-generational group of musical collaborators, including famed producer Bob Johnston, an all-star group of veteran first-call Nashville session players, an impressive group of contemporary young singer-songwriters and friends, and yes, even Harper’s own father, the legendary Paul Simon."

[Translation: Have we mentioned that Harper's father is Paul Simon?]

"Making [this album] ended up being a journey in its own right. Simon started the long and searching recording process for Harper Simon in Nashville, cutting basic tracks with Johnston – who was behind the board for classic recordings from Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen – backed by a Who’s Who of enduring session greats familiar from countless classics of the Sixties and Seventies...“I was also very honored and thrilled and moved beyond words to be able to work with some of the people whose work was featured on some of the best albums of all time,” explains Simon. “People who I had been listening to my whole life and whose names I knew only from liner notes and production credits. In search of a sound that satisfied him, Harper...gradually brought in other great players associated with other eras, including a whole new generation of wildly talented musical friends into the mix including Inara George, Petra Haden and Sean Lennon, ultimately mixing the results with Tom Rothrock, know for his work with artists like Beck and Elliot Smith, who all helped bring the shock of the new..."

[Translation: Nepotism fucking rules.]

“The people that came together to contribute to this album are a totally bizarre and wonderful collection of people that will never come together again,” Harper explains. “There are players that represent every era of Rock n Roll from the 50s, 60's, 70's... every decade up until now really. People like Bob Johnston and my Dad and the Nashville A Team, these people started making records in the 50's. Then they made some of the most groundbreaking records of the 60's. There are folks like Steve Gadd and Steve Nieve who played on great records in the seventies... Marc Ribot in the 80's... And many others from today like Inara George, Eleni Mandell, Sean Lennon and Adam Green to name just a few. I always wanted to blend these great session players from the 60's with my friends and contemporaries... that was always part of the concept. I think I may have gotten carried away, but it sure was fun.”

[Translation: Unlike Daddy's brief Graceland-era stint collaborating with Los Lobos, he actually let me keep the authorship of songs I wrote by myself.]

"In the end, it’s clear that there is real blood on these tracks, to borrow a phrase from another iconic songwriter who’s not Simon’s father, and let there be no doubt that blood is Harper Simon’s."

[Translation: We have no shame.]

"Finally, this is an album that reflects powerfully the long road to get to the point where Simon was ready to stake his musical claim...And so he has taken the time and care to make an album built to last. And this is only really the beginning."

[Translation: Although you'll be tempted to compare Harper's music to that of his father's, we can assure you that the only trait these two share are their receding hairlines.]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Second to None (Except for Everyone In First Place)

The general public fires off a myriad of e-mail questions towards the Disco:Very offices once it learns of the year-end free CD offer. In an attempt to quell potential uproar, let's discuss some of these inquiries openly:

1. I just sent you my address--does this mean I can expect to be stalked?
    Only if you want me to. And even then, what's in it for me?

2. The new year began over a week ago--where is my CD already?
    Do I come down to your job and insist you cook my Big Mac faster?

3. I'm with the RIAA.  You're under arrest.
    That's not a question.

4.  What songs were left off the CD, and why?
     The reasons are as varied as the rejects themselves.  Here are a few:
  • This track sounds too much like their other songs, only without the pathos.
  • This one is even too disco for me.
  • Another blogger already picked them as a year-end favorite, and I am a lone wolf.
  • They used a flute on a previous song, therefore they must be penalized.
  • My fans can only take so many songs in Portuguese in one sitting.
  • Sorrowful expressions of ethnic cleansing through song is sooooo 2005.
  • She lives six blocks away from me, and I do not pander to friends (again: lone wolf).
  • Time constraint, pure and simple (also: ew, she's a widow).
  • My fans can only take so many songs recorded on wax cylinder in one sitting.
  • Just because it sounds like "Sister Ray" doesn't make it as good as "Sister Ray".
  • This resembles Tom Petty a bit too much for comfort.
  • When the fey receptionist at my gym doesn't even know this song, this singer's career is dead.

Monday, January 04, 2010

An Obvious Set-Up, Followed By Laughter You Will Be Powerless to Stop. Plus, Bono is a Putz.

For once, I am in complete agreement with Bono. All anyone need do is look at the way China has successfully curbed its citizens from enjoying freedom of information. If torturing is good enough for Americans to inflict on suspected Al Queda operatives, why not do the same for those who provide free music to the general public? I am so committed to this very notion that I have attached a taser machine to my testicles in a show of support. This expensive contraption is designed to activate any time I should dare to share music files with my adoring public.

On a lighter note, I've just discovered a new band named UV Race whose music has been non-stop on my headphones. Here are a few of my favorite tracks:

Gore Orphanage


All the Things I Do


The UV Know


Meet Me Under the Clocks


Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving. Forever.

It's that time of year where I offer all readers a free 2-CD set comprised of my favorite songs from the last year. Simply send a name (any name will do) and address to the e-mail address listed at the bottom of the right-hand column and you'll be sent a package in a week's time. Regular readers will also get--at no extra cost!--a tall glass of herpes. Don't delay!