Friday, August 21, 2015

Record Store Day, Part Two: Respect

So I left Other Music with every intention of meeting up with Mrs. Jaybee - who was waiting for me a few blocks down at Barnes and Noble - but walked right in the middle of a street fair, where the record racks exert a gravitational pull on you, by which I mean me.

I managed to escape but not before wasting about at least fifteen minutes. (I thought it was five, but have since learned that 5 minutes of record store time is 15 in real time. I know, it wasn’t technically a record store, but somehow the same time/space rules applied.)

So then off to Barnes and Noble where - after a dozen visits without buying a single book (library lurker and cheapskate that I am) - I realized that they have a record section! And I had gift cards!

Which is where I got five Aretha Franklin albums. I know, it sounds like a real gluttony thing to do, but in this case I think it was the right way to go.

It was a five pack that somehow got marked down from $30 to $10(!). And while Aretha’s Gold covers a lot of this territory, it’s on vinyl way down in the basement. Here was a chance to give my knees a rest, and to give this major artist her due.

I’ve always been very intimidated by soul music. When I was a kid I saw a documentary about Aretha Franklin, and was taken aback by how all of these African Americans loved this woman who (I thought) only had that one hit, and who didn’t seem to need the Beatles at all.

And there was such pride and gusto in the music.  Back then, I was uncomfortable with African Americans being anything but meek and quiet. But there Aretha was, commanding the stage.

I’d eventually learn more about Aretha and other soul artists, but usually by reading interviews with Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, whose Anthology opened my eyes to all of these music makers I was not hearing, but who my heroes nevertheless played with and worshiped.

The best I would be able to manage over the years was to sample around the edges by getting Best-ofs and such by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and, of course, James Brown..

Now I had a chance to dig a little deeper.

So let’s start with her Atlantic debut.

I Never Loved a Man.jpg

I’ve Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You

Sometimes you hear something you’ve heard a million times before, but get to hear it  like it’s for the first time again. Imagine walking around telling people what a great movie The Godfather is. The response is, “Well, yeah.”  You end up belaboring the obvious. So forgive me for telly you how great a record -  “Respect” is. An impossible record, really. Especially if you’ve heard the Otis Redding original. With this one song, Aretha announces herself as the greatest popular singer of the era.

Of course, Aretha had been making records for years before this, but they were mainly blues and gospel. Now, she was leaping into the mainstream. Or was she dragging it back over to her?

“Respect” is followed by an excellent version of “Drown in My Own Tears”. Then the title song - which is one of the most potent soul songs ever.

“Dr. Feelgood” is about her primary care provider. And how.

I’m learning to hear that the B in R&B really is for Blues, which you can hear loud and clear in these songs. It just gets called Soul.

Except for “Save Me”, which is flat out rock and roll.

And her version of “A Change is Gonna Come” is almost as good as Otis Redding's. (I don’t know if he would have been able to deal with her topping him twice on the same album.)

Like a lot of albums from the era, not every track is a classic, but that’s also part of its appeal, hearing it so many years later. You get some classics surrounded by songs you never heard before but that are nonetheless delightful thanks to that great voice.

A-

“Dr. Feelgood”


More Aretha Later

Friday, August 14, 2015

Record Store Day, Part One: Drone Missives

It’s statement to my inability to be in the moment that I’m only getting around to Record Store Day - held back in April - here in mid-August. I’d say it was because I had a life, but you already know I don’t.

It was a beautiful spring day, but I waited on line like all the other nerds for the right to spend time in a small dank crowded space. After twenty minutes or so, that right was granted by the nice young man at the door, and I did my best to maneuver between the aisles without being noticed and pegged as someone’s dad.

I typically visit Other Music to check out their very respectable Used CD section, where I act like the musical Statue of Liberty, taking other people’s rejected records. What I forgot was that on Record Store Day, they move that old crap out of the way so they can make some real money.

With vinyl. Lots of vinyl. Well I’m not interested! My turntable is in the basement and I only play the old records when I got down there. So get this: the old geezer clings to his CDs and doesn’t want to go to that new fangled format - vinyl. The irony is not lost on me.

So the selection was limited (meaning limited to regularly priced items that a cheapskate like me would be unwilling to buy) and although I did my usual pick up of five possible buys, I also did my usual put them all back because none of them quite made the grade.

But then, at the last possible second I made a snap decision.


Clean Anthology.jpg

The Clean Anthology

I thought the chances were good that I’d love this record since it was exactly a year before that I’d gotten their record Vehicle at this very same store during last year’s Record Store Day. That album sounded great right off the bat, lit up my springtime and had amazing staying power..

Some anthologies aim to provide only the best songs of an artist. Others try to paint a fuller picture, showing all aspects of an artist’s development, phases and styles.  This one is of the latter variety, which makes for a great overview, but perhaps a less successful sit up and listen record. At least at first.

That first impression confirmed that I already had many of their finest moments on Vehicle both as a great record in and of itself and with its bonus cuts of live versions of some of the best things from Anthology. I feared that I already had everything I’d ever need in Vehicle, and Anthology would prove superfluous.

So it took a while for this one to work its magic.

Goofy amateurs, they start out crude - the bright opener "Tally Ho!" could have been brighter if they just played it faster - slowly finding their way to their sound. But by cut three the awkwardness drops away and what's left is the droney slight weirdness that is the Clean. Thank god for that strumming guitar and those driving drums.

Each track is it’s own little droney world, so this is not as good as Vehicle for active listening, but excellent for doing things around the house.

And they just wear me down. Track after track (46!) of sometimes raw, sometimes sweet guitar. It’s all quite modest, really.  In attitude at least. And a little more appealing that the screech and yawl of Kleenex/Liliput -
that other forty something cut retrospective I got a couple of years ago.  

None of them great singers, the Clean are at their best keeping things going, mid-tempo or faster.
I really admire how they manage to unearth so many of these little nuggets of sound. I’m not always convinced there’s an actual song behind each one but that’s okay.  

I do recall some of them like I would from a half forgotten dream that nonetheless leaves me uneasy. I guess that counts as a bad dream and maybe even a bad memory. But it makes for good music.

Peaking at the beginning of the second disc with - what else? - highlights from Vehicle, where the guitars are sharpest, the singing the most impassioned and the tunes the most balanced. The quality begins the trail off slightly after that, just like it had built up over the preceding CD. As the second CD goes on they get more conventional and when the go weird it just doesn't have the same zing of the first CD. Not bad,  mind you but you do notice some drop off.

So it's a fuller picture of the Clean, warts and all.  Not with the concentrated  power of Vehicle but a nice leisurely tour through their history both before and after that lofty peak.

At first it’s all too much of an okay thing. It goes on to become quite a lot of a very good thing. Fun but not life changing.  That’s okay. Not everything is. B+

"Two Fat Sisters"

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Matter of Life and Death

Given my hard-to-stay-dead crisis of not being able to love any new music, it seemed to make the most sense to stick with happy/poppy/fun records to snap me out of it. What I needed was a good time! It sure didn’t make any sense to get a record about death.

Plus I already had a few records by this artist and felt I may have maxed out on him anyway.

But then, my son Michael - an adult now, who makes his own choices - comes to the rescue and gets this record anyway. And although I tend to stick to those records I myself buy, in this case I’m happy to make an exception.


Carrie and Lowell.jpg

Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan sometimes does long, sprawling albums, filled with orchestrations, like Michigan and Illinois (one of my faves from the last decade), and experiments in electronica like The Age of Adz. He even wrote a symphony about the BQE. link

But occasionally he’ll just write a bunch of tunes, perform them in a simple setting, and end up with a simple, straightforward album. Before, it was the religiously themed Seven Swans. And now, it’s Carrie & Lowell, about the death of his mother.

Now before you get all weepy about it, or worse, feel like you’re being forced into having to like something because of the subject matter, Sufjan points out how their relationship was complicated by her substance abuse and mental health issues, necessitating her leaving him when he was three, to be brought up by others.

So it’s hardly a miss you so much ma weep-fest, There’s an admission of the pain and regret left in the wake of such a relationship and the death that ends it, preventing it from ever being fully repaired.

But he doesn't try to just get by on the gravity of the theme, slipping in some sub-par songs because we feel sorry for him. He puts together eleven excellent to brilliant songs. There’s no skimping here at all.


The first song - “Death With Dignity” - actually starts with an uplifting melody and guitar figure, and ends with some subtle pedal steel guitar and almost Beach Boy-like harmonies. It's a microcosm of the rest of the album - a deft mixture of pain and joy.

Next comes “I Should Have Known Better”, and again, the music is sweet and muted, while the lyrics probe how to better handle such a complicated relationship, and ending hopefully by looking to the future, embodied by his niece.

“All of Me Wants All of You”, about a less than equal relationship, opens up a bit more musically, which is nice, since it staves off the claustrophobia one might feel after a couple of very low key numbers.

“Eugene” is a sweet, short folk song - just guitar and vocal like you’d expect from Cat Stevens. And since Sufjan is a religious fellow, here’s where I note the swimming instructor, pouring water on his head and mispronouncing his name, like a very public and very imperfect baptism.  It’s just one of the many religious and mythical references here that will take me years to figure out.

“Fourth of July” may be the quietest song on the record, but it’s also the most intense. The lyrics are a dialog between him and his mother both before and after her death. It’s a quiet masterpiece:
Did you get enough love, my little dove,
Why do you cry?
I’m sorry I left,
But it was for the best
My little Versailles.

It’s followed by the most beautiful song I’ve heard all year. The lyrics to “The Only Thing” are full of despair and thoughts of suicide, but the melody is so sweet that one is left feeling full of hope. The guitar interlude followed by the final verse may be the most sublime musical moment I’ve felt for years.

And after the poppy - relatively speaking - title cut, it gets quieter again,and stays that way until the end, which might be forbidding for any but the true believers. It’s all right, though, By now I am one.

I like how Sufjan, while keeping things sparse, doesn't get lazy with the instrumentation. He finds the exact string instrument that's right for the song. And I'd tell you what those instruments were if I could get the damned liner notes to open.

And he doesn't stint on the melody. Oh, he gets a bit prissy with his vocals occasionally, but only if the tune or the theme calls for it.

Those melodies are very straightforward, so it’s easy to get lulled into thinking you know what you're getting on first listen. But like John Prine and Neil Young before him, he’s written music that is so strong it stays with you long after you thought it would lose its power.

And it was this very mistake that led to my disappointment at his recent show. If I had just stayed with the album a little longer, the concert would have been brilliant.  I’ve had similar missed opportunities, like Elvis Costello in 1981, who, in the prior year, had put out three albums containing a total of 55(!) songs, all of which he seemed to play that night, and none of which I’d heard as yet, and REM in 1985, when in retrospect it would have been a good idea to have picked up their debut EP Chronic Town, which brought the show to a rousing finish.

By the time I saw Sufjan, I’d clearly underestimated his album. There was another level of enjoyment I hadn’t gotten to by then that I’d only reach over the next few weeks, when we played it over and over and over again.

I thought Aphex Twin would be the right way back into happy music, now I think Sufjan Stevens is. Of course, if I heard Carrie & Lowell in January, I may have never left the house again. But to paraphrase “Game of Thrones”, to get to happy, head to sad.

Yup, Carrie & Lowell is one of those "demanding" albums. No fun - the one thing I was looking for - at all. And yet, it's the best thing I've heard all year.

I guess Mick was right. If you try sometimes, you get what you need.

A

“The Only Thing”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Old Man Attends Concert, Nearly Has A Good Time

I could go on Facebook and say it was the greatest concert ever, but that wouldn't be true. I could have said we had a wonderful time, but I didn't.

It was just another concert, and it turned out the way concerts generally turn out for me. Okay, but frustrating as hell.

Why does this always happen? Well, it could be my impossibly high standards, but circumstances do enter into it.

We had tickets to Sufjan Stevens at the newly - and awesomely - refurbished Kings Theatre, and there was no reason to think we'd have anything but a wonderful time. Except all of my prior concert experiences.

Unlike my fellow near 58 year olds, I won't lie to you and tell you about all the concerts I've been to. When I was younger I DIDN'T go to a lot of concerts. I didn’t see Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones. So when I did get to go to a show, I’d invest so much emotional capital into it, it would be almost impossible for the show to satisfy me.

Other folks would come to have a good time, by dancing, standing and talking to friends. But I must have been starved for entertainment, because. I’d sit there leaning forward, never taking my eyes off the stage, making sure I was taking in every sliver of the experience.  And heaven help anyone who came between me and that experience.

I'd be there hoping for a PERFECT show, which would comprise the following:


  1. Great seats.
  2. Nobody's fat f*cking head in front of me.
  3. A great song selection. A corollary to this is that there’s a good mix of old and new.  Too much old is playing it safe, too much new is not fair to the audience, and reeks of hawking new product, like a 1978 Dave Mason concert that my friends and I would later refer to as the “Here’s another one from the new record…” show. 
  4. Faithful but enthusiastic renditions of the songs. Not robotic note for note replications of the record, but also not drastically different arrangements of them, a la Dylan.
  5. If you’re a solo act, a good band
  6. A good sound system.
  7. No assholes. which means nobody talking throughout the show, and nobody screaming out during quiet songs.
  8. A three hour show.  Okay, this isn’t as important as it used to be. I’d have to hit the bathroom during such a marathon.  And I saw a pretty short Elvis Costello show in 1979 that was nonetheless one of the more intense concerts I’ve ever seen, and so I didn’t leave feeling gypped, like that other EC, whose 1974 show was the epitome of the bad concert. I’d waited months for that show (and years for him to come out of hiding) and it sucked, striking out on virtually all of the above criteria.
As you can see, I tend to place a lot of expectation on an event involving a multitude of factors and thousands of people out of my control. And I usually was disappointed.

Would Sufjan do any better, I wondered? It’s funny how things change, though. I’d set my expectations so low I’d almost forgotten we’d even gotten the tickets.

When we entered the theater, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It had been closed for a long time, but had just been refurbished, and was absolutely beautiful.

And the opening act - Moses Sumney - started at eight sharp! - was really very good. A perfect start.

So Sufjan comes on and starts off great, playing songs from his new record. And playing them. And playing them. About seven in a row, actually.

Now, given my inability to appreciate music the first time I hear it, I try to prepare for a show by listening to the new album a few times ahead of time. Arcade Fire didn’t give us much of a chance releasing The Suburbs the day before we saw them in 2010. Sufjan had a little more consideration. But I still felt rushed, and only got a few grudging listens in.

A good, but solemn, record. And while you can definitely put it on when you're in that mood, you may not want to remain in that mood for the length of an entire concert, which should be a little more, uh, fun. And given how I’d been feeling in general, more solemnity was the last thing I needed.

He did play some other songs, but they seemed few and far between. And it took him almost half the show before he even talked to the audience.  So it was a little too much like going to mass.

But how did we do overall?

1. Seats? Row S. Excellent. A-
2. Fat F*cking Heads?  Not bad - I had a great view but there was the young lady who insisted on resting her head on her girlfriend’s shoulder, blocking my wife's view. But then she'd lift it again. And then put it down again. I was outraged by proxy, but Mrs. Jaybee said she didn’t mind. B+
3. Song Selection? As I said, too many new ones. B
4. Faithful but enthusiastic....?  A
5. The Band? Excellent! Stripped down, and mixed gender, too! A
6. Sound System? Usually excellent, but sometimes the guitar was too loud and Sufjan also tried - in the wrong way - to expand the tone of the material. B+
7. Assholes? Surprisingly, sensitive Sufjan draws assholes just like any other artist. Despite threats to the contrary, talking during the show was pretty minimal, but there were the douche bags who screamed out during the quiet parts of songs. What are these people thinking? That they're adding to the experience?  And a new phenomenon. People showing up late for the show! Like an hour late. Really? Is this just one stop in your wonderful evening? Who are these people who buy tickets to shows and come in when it’s more than half over?  That’s like buying a pizza and throwing away four slices on the way home. B
8. A three hour show. Not even close, but I don’t care anymore. A-  

Overall, the show gets a strong B+, with the song selection being the biggest problem. Which is a damned shame since I’d find out later how great, and how durable, these new songs were.

But it's like deciding when to eat dinner. At my age, I spend a lot of time not being hungry, only to immediately follow that with that nice hungry feeling, but only for about five minutes. It’s immediately superseded by nausea, thus making the timing of a meal challenging, to say the least.

And with new songs, if you overplay them you get sick of them songs before the show. You need to play them just enough to want to look forward to hearing them again. And then stop until the show.

So I went into the show  thinking I’d gotten to the essence of these songs - thinking I was ready to really enjoy them. But I was wrong. It was too soon. I’d only skimmed the surface. But I’ll talk about that at another time.

So it wasn’t a great show, but I’d only blame Sufjan for the abrupt end to “Chicago”, which should have gone out on a fading choir of angelic voices. See?

We’ll go back to the Kings Theater in October to catch Yo La Tengo and I’ll report back on my narrow comfort zone and the potential attendant assholes. Let’s see if I, or they, learn anything.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rock Music for the Old at Heart

There I am, yearning for some great new music, and get Aphex Twin instead, so I decide to go musically conservative, hoping that will improve the odds of hitting a winner. I end up with something that the old and not very bold WNEW-FM would have been proud to play.

And that's the problem.


War on Drugs.jpg

The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream

Spacious, but grounded, or something like that, said the blurb on the cover. Which is a way of saying it’s well produced, I guess.

Leader Adam Granduciel is trying to sounds like mid-60s Dylan, vocally, but puts a thick slab of U2-ish spaciness on top and ends up with some pretty commercial sounding AOR.

But Christ, he sure takes his time.

With its long intro and attempted build-up of momentum, the good but not quite great opener, “Under the Pressure”, never quite takes off the way it's meant to, and after eight minutes, ultimately collapses under all that, well, you know. Unlike Bowie’s “Station to Station” - an even longer song with an even longer intro - which builds and builds to reach an actual climax, this song never gets to that level of intensity.

And this is the fatal flaw of the record. Ten songs adding up to over sixty minutes of music, each attempting an intensity that is rarely reached, indicate that this guy doesn’t know how to turn things up a notch, or when to wrap it up. And well, I’ve got a bus to catch.

It's like he's trying to achieve the trance-like state you might normally get from an extended dance track, but via the intensity of rock and roll. But he never gets there. He’s just too damned slow. Plus dance music typically has  you know, a beat.

Maybe because he sounds so much older, he can only go so fast. Believe me, I can sympathize with that. But unlike Dylan, whose ever-whinier voice was always at least urgent, this guy sometimes sounds like that uncle you’re always avoiding at family get-togethers.

The second song, “Red Eyes”, does okay, but the third one - called "Suffering" - is kinda slow, so I guess it's aptly named. Not a bad song, Just a bad one to have follow two that didn't quite meet their potential.

“An Ocean in Between the Waves” moves a bit more and thus succeeds at its goal, but still takes seven freakin' minutes to get there.

Then there are a few more on the long and slow side that are obviously trying for some atmosphere, and succeed. If only that atmosphere wasn’t boredom! That’s not fair. They’re nice, but nothing more.

Then he goes all Bob Seger on my ass. Not the fun “Good Old Rock and Roll” Bob Seger. The later oh so older/"wiser" “Like a Rock"/“Against the Wind” Bob Seger. Granduciel also likes the wind. (Now there’s a joke I won’t even try to make.) He "fixes his eyes to the wind” (which I can’t do because I just get crap in them and end up rubbing them raw, so maybe I'm jealous) And god does that wind blow for a long time!

Even the short instrumental interlude takes three minutes!

“Burning” tries to borrow some grandiosity from “Dancing in the Dark”, but by this point things are just getting silly.

Paradoxically, the two tired songs that finish things up are actually pretty good. Maybe because by this point, I'm tired, too. The music (and the sentiments) - by sheer force of will - move beyond the cliche, and are quite moving, even though they’re not very specific. Hey, I’ll take what I can get.

This is “serious” rock music, which I find hard to take seriously. I know this sounds snobbish, but it’s really the opposite. I was always well behaved as a child, but this guy tempts me to throw spit balls from the back of the classroom.

And two or maybe three stirring moments spread out across an entire hour is more than I have the patience for anymore. Maybe some editing and the addition of a sense of humor would have made this the classic it’s clearly trying to be.

But his heart’s really in it, so I have to give him props for that. And it’s growing on me.

But only so much.

B+

When to Play It: When You've Got Company, and They're Your Own Age (Old) But Haven't Admitted It Yet

When to NOT Play It: When you’re in a hurry.

“An Ocean In Between the Waves”

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Easy-To-Not-Listen-To Music

Now that everything is just great, I brace myself for the unending tidal wave of musical brilliance that is to inevitably flow through my life, now that I know I still have a hankering for it.

But instead of a tidal wave, it’s more of a trickle. I need musical Flomax.

To put it another way, music continued to disappoint, but this time I don't think it was my fault.


Aphex Twin.jpg

Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85 - 92

This is the happier, peppier cousin to the record that I use for my depressions.  And as I said previously I thought it might serve as a halfway mark to music that was more fun than what I had been listening to during that long, cold winter.

But my (admittedly unreliable) first impression is meh.

My second impression, awful, and in it’s own way, even more depressing than his other record.

And, as is usually the case my third thru whatever-I’m-up-to-now listen, better.

This is one of the first records ever called “electronica”. And the issue, to me, will always be Does It Have Any Soul?  And by that I don’t necessarily mean does it have Aretha Franklin singing on it, but rather, does it have real (or very well faked) feeling to it?

This is a valid question for any kind of music, but especially important for electronica, where there’s less of a reliance on words, and where there’s always a danger that the technology will overwhelm the the human.

That seems a fair way of judging this record. Here’s my reaction to each track, without the track names, because they’re silly.  (ie. “Xtal”, “Tha”, etc. You get the idea. It’s like he’s a member of a Sci-Fi themed fraternity):


  1. We start off promisingly enough. Very sleek electronica. But the key element is the woman's voice in the background that humanizes it. 
  2. Again, voices in the background - this time spoken - humanize this one, but not as successfully  as before. I like my alienation as much as the next guy so I hang in there. It's somewhat sterile but the ghosts in the machine help.
  3. A less cool, and thus more humane, melody and beat that will one day get used to great effect by Erasure
  4. Here’s where I start to get a Pure Moods vibe link. (Do you have Pure Moods? Of course you do. It’s a phase we all go through. Dont let it get you down. It’s not so bad. But it does kind of announce that you’re middle aged.) For a while I thought I was hearing heavy breathing on this one, but that turned out to be my son Michael exercising. So, thumbs down here, although the bass is trying.
  5. And now I just don't care. He's trying to be Eno, and failing. Thank God it’s short.
  6. And now he's getting desperate - he speeds things up a bit, but all I’m hearing are a lot of synthesizer farts.
  7. And here he tries to be haunting and almost gets away with it. But not quite.
  8. Now, this is a pretty cool track, and I can definitely imagine it getting played in clubs, where, you know, humans go. (Not me, cool humans.)  But there’s that whole “we are the music makers” lyric. Well, screw you buddy. We're the ones paying the music makers.
  9. And again, not bad. Techno, but not entirely soulless.
  10. More, techno, and perfect for that club.
  11. Now he goes to outer space, where no one can hear you snore.
  12. And then back to Earth, where’s it’s not all that exciting, either.  After a minute or so it perks up a bit.
  13. Kind of brooding, in a good way. Kind of peppy too. It’s got the right attitude.

Most of these cuts are pretty long, and to be fair, they usually need a minute or so to kick in. But I don’t know if I’ve got that kind of time.

I suppose that, in its infancy, these are the areas that electronica had to explore, but I find more heart in Eno/Moby/DJ Shadow and even Burial.

From what I understand, Richard D. James (secret identity of Aphex Twin!, Oh my god, I gave it away!) was in his teens when he started out, so in that light, this is quite an achievement.

I also noticed a disturbing resemblance to the type of music they'd play on Miami Vice (another extreme dislike of mine from the 80s), which makes sense given that this collection covers 1985 to 1992.

This is music for those desperate to feel cool. And it works better in a club than it does out here in real life. Or to paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s music that sounds better when you’re not listening to it.

But it’s growing on me. A little.  The big joke on Aphex Twin is that, instead of this being apt for nighttime at a club in the city, how much better this sounds on a Saturday morning when I’m trying to do chores.

As it so happens, I’ve just gotten out of bed. I’m in a tee shirt and haven’t shaved yet, so I can practically pass for Don Johnson. So let me put on that blazer, roll up the sleeves and do the dishes!

To the tune of Aphex Twin.

B

"Crystal"

Friday, May 15, 2015

How Jaybee Almost Got His Groove (Which He Never Really Had in the First Place) Back. Sort Of.

When we last left off, Jaybee was trying to get back what passed for his mojo/groove/rhythm.

He never really had it in the first place - it all of that went to the kids - but you can't blame a guy for trying.

Like I said previously, I had a couple of reasons to sour on music at the beginning of the year. And avoiding music turned out to be not nearly as difficult as it should have been. It made me wonder if I'd lost my taste for it.

So I began to plot my way out. I’d look at the various year end best of lists for inspiration, where I found Wussy, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs piqueing my interest. But I knew I wasn’t in the mood for them at the time.

And the weird electronica and environmental sounds I was listening to led me to consider Aphex Twin, whose Selected Ambient Works, 85-92 might server as a halfway point back to normal, (Volume 2, its evil twin, was such a good companion during a very dark period. Like how you need a fellow drug addict around when you’re trying to quit.) Volume 1 is supposedly poppier, so I thought it would put me in the right direction, and lead me out, towards the records above. But it wasn't time yet.

Well, I finally passed those tests I was studying for, and then wondered if the music urge would come back.

It took about a day.

And what did I decide to listen to?  Why, that other great companion during that very dark time:



Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 

Back then, this, and Aphex Twin, were the only two records I could listen to for a three month stretch. And I didn’t even love the record. It was just the only one that fit the mood.

But it does open with a number that reminds me of someone breaking out of cocoon (and then falling on his face, but at the time, I would settle for anything). And now, it seemed like a good transition to real life.

"I Am Trying to Break Your Heat"

The drumming is like how I dance, and it ends like my speeches do - in complete incoherence. But it was exactly what I needed.

I even brought the record to work where all dreams normally go to die. And they didn’t.

Well, by now I’d come out of the cocoon, and I had to take the next steop. Would I stumble?




My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

This was more like a volcano erupting. A dam breaking.  An explosion caught on tape. But, you know, in a good way.

When I first got this record, I found it so anarchic I had trouble finding where the beat was most of the time. Forget about melody.

This song doesn’t have that problem. The “melody” is a drunk slide guitar playing the same figure over and over (and over) again. The beat is basically a t-rex stomping on your head. By 3:23 you have to choose between going mad or just going with the flow. (Of water, not lava. Damn you, mixed metaphors!)

"I Only Said"

But, like I said, it was what I needed. 

So, I ended up feeling my version of normal, which I can’t recommend, but it’s all I’ve got.

Let's see where that leads.