Friday, September 17, 2004

Been a busy week here, so not much time to blab endlessly about the nonsense I love to engage in. Here's a half-arsed HIGH FIVE 'til I get my shit together...

1) MINUTEMEN - 3-Way Tie (For Last) LP
The 'men's final outing (bar the posthumous Ballot Result 2LP from '86), always a firm favourite in this household. Clunky production c/o Ethan James bogs things down a bit (those drums! Someone tighten Hurley's snare, please), and this is admittedly very scattered in approach, but for me it works. Short songs, long songs, the band mixed it up with a great mix of originals spanning explosive, expansive and uncharacteristically noisy Rock, Latin-influenced ballads ("Stories" - one of D.'s best), abstract fuck-arounds, spoken word(!), hip-hop ("No-one", a monstrous heart-starter) and a bevy of covers from the likes of the Urinals, BOC, Creedence, Meat Puppets and Roky. Pretty fuckin' ace all round, don't be a chump and buy the CD version because, as with most/all(?) SST CDs, it sounds like someone remastered it in a toilet block and wiped their backside with the tape afterwards.

2) V/A - Nuggets 4CD box
This has almost 120 songs and I think I know nearly everyone of them back to front, which speaks volumes of how good this is, and how many times I've spun its wares. Listen to the critics, this time they were right: every song's a winner, baby. Forget about the sequel box, however, the international, non-American collection, as its dud-to-hit ratio is frighteningly high, and its inclusion of Status Quo's woeful "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is an unforgivable error of judgment on behalf of the compilers. I tend to find the fans of "Nuggets rock" tedious beyond words, but this time I'll admit defeat. If you buy but one 4-CD box set of American '60s garage punk this lifetime, why not make it this one?

3) VAN MORRISON - Astral Weeks CD
When I began working in a certain record store roughly three years back, the first week the manager posed this curly question to me: who do you find to be the most loathsome artist on earth? Who is the person or band that makes you break out in hives and puts you off your food? Who would you gladly never hear ever again and remain a content person? I brought out my alphabetically-ordered list and proceeded to read... Live, Tea Party, Prodigy, Dave Matthews Band, Creed, Billy Joel, No Doubt, John Butler Trio, Cat Stevens, etc. He looked at me dumbfounded at my near-psychotic rant of pure loathing. I wiped my brow and asked him the same question. His response? Van Morrison. I was puzzled. Like, what's wrong with Van? Sure, he's released more useless albums primarily aimed at the fondu party/Big Chill/wine-&-cheese market than you could hope to destroy in a lifetime (a little Moondance, anyone?), but what about Astral Weeks?! He wouldn't budge. I understood his point - he'd worked in retail for over 10 years and had witnessed first-hand the succession, year after year, of increasingly dreadful Van albums spat out time and time again, but I, too, wouldn't move an inch. We were locked in a stalemate, dutifully shook hands and agreed to disagree. Mr. Morrison can stake his entire life on one disc: Astral Weeks. The fact that he was only 22 when he made this is remarkable, and has even become a nyuk-nyuk in-joke with friends of mine: does one possess the maturity of a 22-year-old Van? That's a tough move to beat.

4) JOHN ZORN - Taboo & Exile CD
For various members of the hipster elite, Mr. Zorn is an artist of utmost bogusness who has committed the heinous crime of associating with people of an undesirable character, namely Mike Patton and various dunderheads from the Earache stable. Me? I could care less. I'd probably rather jump off the nearest cliff than sit through a Mike Patton-helmed album of any sort, but as long as Zorn continues to create albums as good as this, he can keep company with whom he likes. Like every jerk-off and his dog, my ear was turned to Zorn roughly ca. 1990 when the Naked City Torture Garden LP came out. It was a revelatory rush and one which created a blueprint worldwide for every talent-challenged douchebag and his collection of stoner friends to "do Naked City-type shit". At that point my mind went elsewhere. For the rest of the decade I paid little, if any, attention to what Zorn and his gaggle of pals were up to. Then someone played me this, and I awoke from my self-induced coma. Released in 1999, Taboo & Exile remains for myself the quintessential John Zorn album. A none-too-hyper rag-tag of "punk-jazz" (yeah, I know...), chamber pieces, Klezmer, noise and the kitchen-sink tinkering he's known/famous/loathed for, Taboo... is a mixture which works, primarily because he allows the music to develop then dissipate. Over the last couple of years I've delved back into his '90s catalogue and have become increasingly impressed with the little cottage industry the man has set up for himself. You know what? He's ALL RIGHT. Ignore his fans - (shudder) Zorn fans, they're an ugly mob - and do as the Bros. Doobie say: listen to the music.

5) AC/DC - Back in Black LP
I had a 21-year gap of not listening to this album: from the years 1981 'til 2002, it did not enter my headspace. Back in primary school, this, along with Kiss' Dynasty and Unmasked, was my reason for being. Then in 1981 I discovered BMXs, forgot all about music (and definitely AC/DC and Kiss) for a couple of years and delved head first into the ass-kickin' world of Culture Club and Spandeu Ballet as a 12-year-old. In a blog, one must be honest. I could attempt to rewrite history and tell you of the 11-year-old Dave Lang scouring the record bins for Electric Eels bootlegs, but would anyone believe me? I was a pre-teenage New Romantic. Fuck you right back. So, skip to the year 2002 and I'm drowning myself in the demon booze with various friends when the opening riff to "Back in Black" hits the jukebox. Instantly, I'm transported to another dimension: the days of posing with tennis racquets in front the of the mirror, of trading Kiss cards, of attempting to dress like school-boy Angus Young, of thinking I was the biggest bad-ass in the playground. Damn it, I feel good! I feel alive! More to the point, AC/DC sound HOT. I pledge a promise to myself to purchase a copy of Back in Black the next day, hit the local secondhand bin in 24 hours and do exactly that. Over the next few months I tracked down all the Bon Scott-era LPs and now I'm content. AC/DC's sense of absolute bare-bones minimalism is on a par with Wire. Never are there any unnecessary flourishes or displays of dazzling musicianship: everything is held at a Neanderthal level: musically, lyrically, aesthetically. That is their beauty. And the opening chords to "Back in Black" could still slay a dragon.

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