Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've been on vacation for the last 3 or more weeks. Not a real vacation, just a vacation from the 'net, blogs, etc. Also, my computer has been rooted and I'm in dire need of upgrading my account, since it's obvious now that w/ a heavy schedule of YouTube viewing being par for the course, I'll need to get more bandwidth post haste.

An absolutely stupid pile of stuff has landed on my doorstep of late. Maybe one day I'll get around to doing them some real justice. In the meantime, I'm going to breezily skip over a couple of them in brief summaries.

DINOSAUR JR. - You're Living All Over Me/Bug CDs (Merge)
Time to feel like I'm 16/17 all over again. I foolishly sold my LP copies of these years back, after being so disheartened by the sad (and fairly quick) decline of the band and figuring I'd never want to hear even their good, earlier albums ever again. All is forgiven. When was the last time I heard these? '94? '95? I only received these in the mail 24 hours ago and I'm reconverted all over again. Powerhouse hardcore/psych/metal/goth/sludge rock which, so far as that genre goes, has never been surpassed. And for the record, I think Bug is the better of the two, no matter what lame crap I may've spouted in that goddamn SST article years back, one which will haunt me 'til the day I die. Yes, Ginn did write to me to call me an asshole. True story.

ARTHUR RUSSELL - World Of Echo CD (Audika)
Blow me the fuck down. This one has sent me in a tailspin. Arthur Russell is a name I've been hearing a lot over the last few years, especially since the good people at Soul Jazz released a comp' of his works a year or two back. When he was summed up as being a now-deceased gay avant-garde musician from '80s NY who dabbled in performance music and disco, I was prepared for the worst. What would I get? Kid Creole and the Coconuts meets Laurie Anderson w/ perhaps a smidgen of Quentin Crisp? His music is, from all reports, a schizophrenic mixed bag, though the bag featured here is one I'll be keeping. This does not sound like it emanates from '80s chi-chi post-No Wave downtown NY. In fact, it doesn't sound even remotely American or '80s. World Of Echo concentrates on Russell's avant-pop, accompanied mostly by only a cello and a bevy of effects pedals. I'm reminded vocally and stylistically of both John Martyn and Nick Drake, with the instrumentation sounding like it could've been handpicked from an old '60s Euro avant platter likely residing in Stephen Stapleton's vast collection. More to the point, the tunes are achingly beautiful, catchy and awesomely stark. His output may be infuriatingly eclectic, and I won't give a verdict on his other records, but this one gets a definite thumbs up.

WILLIAM PARKER - Long Hidden: The Olmec Series CD (Aum Fidelity)
Jazz album of the year! Mr. Parker keeps everyone guessing and no-one gets the question right. This time around he's pulled together a totally unexpected mix: solo bass, both plucked and scraped, and a series of pieces played w/ the Olmec Group, a combo of musicians who... ugh, well, if you want the whole story, read here, as on that very page you will read the whole story: musical and cultural barriers being crossed and melded, the great civilisations of Western African and the Mayan people and much more. It's a nice story, but more to the point, there's this CD and the music contained within. It is, if anything, a musical update on the ethno-jazz Don Cherry was pioneering in the late '60s/early '70s (the Mu/Orient/Eternal Rhythms/Blue Lake/Organic Music Society group of albums I've attempted to champion throughout the last 18 months), in which Parker mixes up avant-jazz w/ traditional African and Olmec (re: native Central American) instrumentation. Therefore, all you need to know is this: if you ever popped a cork to this aforementioned Cherry discs, or a good half-a-dozen titles from the Ethiopiques series, then you may wanna make the purchase. I haven't heard too much jazz actually released in the year 2006, but if there's a better one than this, I'd like to hear it.

GUN CLUB - The Las Vegas Story/Mother Juno CDs (both Sympathy)
I attempted to court controversy a few months back when I hailed the Gun Club's Miami as infinitely superior to their widely-hailed debut, Fire Of Love. Due to the total lack of outrage amongst the general populace, I can only assume that A) everyone agrees or B) no-one cares or C) no-one read it. But anyway, now we head on to the band's 3rd and 4th albums, from 1984 and 1987, respectively.
The Las Vegas Story is the pick of the two. Musically it's not too dissimilar from Miami, except to say that the guitars are a bit "heavier" (possibly due to the fact that Chris Stein didn't produce this, a man who was supposedly averse to "hard rock") and the songwriting perhaps one tenth of a notch down the totem pole of its predecessor. Which of course is not insinuating this to be a dud by any stretch. It features some first-rate material: the upbeat slide-guitar romps of "Eternity Is Here" and "My Dreams", the uber-'80s Big Chorus yelp on "The Stranger In Our Town" and the mid-tempo piercing guitar screeches on "Bad America"(best track here). There's also a kinda mediocre take on Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" and a not-entirely-successful attempt to convert Pharoah Sanders' masterful "The Creator Has A Master Plan" epic into a 2-minute rock song, but I admire the courage and the fact that they even bothered (Pharoah being covered in 1984 by a Rock Band?! I thought it couldn't be done). Hate to get all Christgau on you, but I'm giving this an A-.
I remember there being a whole lotta hoopla over Mother Juno back in '87 when it first came out. I was but a 15-year-old putz, but I heard it plastered all over 3RRR in ol' Melbourne town at the time, dutifully wore the needle out on my collection of fist-shaking hardcore instead and happily ignored the buzz. Those Cramps wannabes are still around?! Hmmph... who cares? Apparently a lot of people did. This was considered a "return to form", after all. Huh? Like there was something wrong w/ the previous two albums? I think not. This is pretty OK, helped along by a couple of outstanding tracks early in the piece, though also weighed down by a bit of light-weight foppery in the middle. First thing you need to know: Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins produced this, and his nancy-boy hands are printed all over it. This is especially so in "The Breaking Hands", a track which caused my workmate to turn to me as it played and utter with a sarcastic grin, "This must've been the period when Jeffrey Lee Pierce discovered the majesty of Morrissey". Yeah, it's got that icky, thin-as-a-rake '80s schtick happening w/ the guitars and I don't like it one bit. It's only one track, but if I was Long Gone John I would've released this - sans that number - and marketed it as a "Special Edition" or some such nonsense. Would've made for a more pleasant listen. But in fairness, I absolutely love the first three tracks, "Bill Bailey", "Thunderhead" (15 years after the fact, I finally realise that The Onyas didn't write this song) and "Lupita Screams" (JLP trying to cop a Hendrix groove, and it's pulled off nicely), and things pick up again near the end. Not essential, but if you want to be a completist for the '80s stuff, this is worth the gamble. That's a B from me, thanks.

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