Sunday, October 30, 2005
I'm overwhelmed, truly overwhelmed. I'm drowning in a sea of CDs and LPs. I've acquired so much music lately - through silly buying binges, ebay, work freebies and stuff sent to me by kind readers - that I barely have the time to listen to them all, let alone write about them. I've amassed a smorgasboard of greats: Hasil Adkins; Ethiopiques (yeah, the whole damn series - all 20 of them - in one hit! I can get this stuff at the right price, don't ask for details. For starters, I'd recommend volume 14: Getatchew Mekurya, a veteran of the Ethiopian jazz scene who was apparently squawking his brass way back in the '50s. His recordings presented here are a godsend, a sublime mix of stumbling percussion, other-worldly organs and bleeting baritone, you could whack a Saturn sticker on this and people would swear it was the great Sonny Ra ca. Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy); Royal Trux; a massive Stax singles box which will take me a lifetime to digest; some killer Roky Erickson reissues on Rykodisc (Gremlins Have Pictures boasts the greatest version of "Heroin" ever, VU included); Woody Guthrie 4-CD box on Smithsonian Folkways; Meat Puppets reissues on (again) Rykodisc (I held off forever in purchasing these, since I've owned the LPs for 17-18 years, but finally bit the bullet with those bonus tracks dangling in front of me like a carrot on a stick); The Ex's singles collection on Touch & Go; Sun Ra's Space Is The Place DVD (one of the strangest damn films ever made; I don't know what is in fact weirder: the film itself or the fact that someone actually funded and made it); the Killer's Kiss CD (thanks for that, by the way; righteous r 'n' r caught somewhere between the Heartbreakers and Crime and the hooks to boot. I'm sure someone else has said this before, but In The Red really oughta sign these guys); Don Cherry; Cabaret Voltaire; Sunn O))) (maybe I'll write more on this at a later date. It deserves it. I think I said something like this w/ the last disc of theirs: it'd be so easy for them to simply put a guitar in front of an amp, record the feedback and leave the room for an hour to smoke a bowl, come back, press "stop" and release the recording to an adoring fanbase. That is not what they do. Black One is an immensely layered, textured and well-thought-out piece of work, and, in my opinion, the best thing they've ever done. When it comes to Top 10 time later in the year, it's sure to be there); David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name CD (yeah, that David Crosby, the butt of all your rock 'n' roll jokes, that pathetic, washed-up, has-been cokehead whose claim to fame resides somewhere between all the '60s starlets he laid and, well, that fact that he was there, man. Me, I don't mind the guy: he was in the Byrds, one of the great bands of the '60s (or any time) and was also responsible for writing (or co-writing) some of their finest tunes, and this solo album from 1971 is a scorcher, a perfect post-hippie downer disc for those lonely nights when you can't be bothered reaching for your John Martyn or Skip Spence platters. Anyone willing to pull their head out of their ass will enjoy If I Could Only Remember My Name for what it is)...
Phew... that above paragraph looks impenetrable... best break this up. Electric Wizard played here on the weekend. I saw them. They were pretty OK, though it's hard for me to judge them w/out putting them in the context of the night. I'll put it this way: when seeing a band from overseas, it truly is not necessary to make it a "night of nights" by having roughly 10 support bands on the bill, especially when a good 80% of those bands sound exactly alike or, more to the point, like bands who appear to be pulling a page out of the headliner's songbook. If the 'Wizard are going to "doom me out" like no other, then I don't need to sit through 3 other bands (I got there late, though 3 was enough) with the same Xeroxed 'Sabbath riffs deafening me for half the night before the headliner hits the stage. What about some variety? A jazz band, mime troupe, tortured singer-songwriter, a goddamn juggling act! By the time EW hit the stage, I was over it, and that's not their fault; it's the old saying: repetition breeds contempt.
I've just finished reading Simon Reynolds' new book, the monstrous 400+ page grand epic, Rip It Up and Start Again, which is a history of post-punk, mainly UK-based, ca. 1978-'84. The verdict? You are not likely to learn much of anything new here; if you know the topic like I do, then everything's already been covered elsewhere, and Reynolds makes the deadly mistake of trying to cover waaay too much ground, the end result being a shallow skimming over of too many bands and musicians, but - and that's a big BUT - I enjoyed the book immensely, flicking through it like a man possessed. It has its natural faults, like the ones mentioned, plus the woeful lack of coverage of the US scene (he does cover No Wave, Residents, Flipper and Mission of Burma and even has a chapter on SST [yes, I did skip straight to it upon purchase]), though it beggars belief as to why he never even mentions the likes of the Wipers or Half Japanese, two pretty crucial bands in the post-punk canon if ya ask me (which you didn't, so I'm telling you).
Reynolds knows his shit and possesses the good sense to be a longtime pal of Joe Carducci (he's not yer typical wet-blanket Limey music journo, in other words), though his writing tends to lack any kind of moral authority, the kind which makes the likes of Carducci and Bangs such a riveting read. Fact is, he doesn't appear to pass judgment on just about anyone in his book. The likes of Green Gartside from (the totally over-rated) Scritti Politti gets away with murder; the man is an absolute prat of the nth degree and should've been crucified for his wrongdoings and hypocrisy, but in the hands of Reynolds gets off scot free. I'm also not too sure that he should've delved into the worlds of ABC, Thompson Twins, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Duran Duran et al for the last few, gruelling chapters either. Cutting it off when "post-punk" was actually referring to something a little more, shall we say, "cutting edge" would've left a less sour taste in my mouth (and as a pre-punker 12-year-old bona fide New Romantic, I LOVED all that horseshit, but I don't need to be reminded of it). But anyway... it's out, it's about, you'll probably pick it up no matter what I say. And don't forget that priceless check-list of pre-punk faves from the Meat Puppets' Cris Kirkwood: "tasty fuckin' lick-meisters" such as Gong, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al DiMeola, Gentle Giant and ECM guitarists John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner!