Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts (2011)

The repeated phrases of "without shame, without shame" on "Mina Loy" (track 7) perfectly articulate the feelings of critical defiance and courageous self-redefinition that are present in Thurston's new solo album. Because maybe it's just the addition of the lazy, sweeping strings in the background, or perhaps the subdued and subtle guitar work, but with Demolished Thoughts, it finally appears as though Moore has made a name for himself as a singer/songwriter outside the often inescapably realms of Sonic Youth and his dozens of other projects. There's still the characteristic Thurston to be found in the album, but the go-to techniques that he's been imploring for years seem to have reached full maturation, and have blended together on this 100% acoustic album in a unique way to create a wholly original and uniquely charming release.

There's certainly stereotypical Thurston in the album. "Circulation" begins a bit of all too recognizable quick-wristed, loose, punky guitar work that's come to define the Lee/Moore guitar dichotomy over the years. There's also prime examples of the all-too-cryptic lyrics that he's been known for over the years with stand-alone lines like "Wet and drunken desire, dripping tears" in the track "Orchard Street." And as with almost every true Sonic Youth composition, there's some (although here, subdued) squeaky, shrill guitar buildups that happen after a couple of verses.

But there's a lot of new techniques that Moore implores on this album that make it fresh exciting for any Sonic Youth fan to listen to. As mentioned before, the presence of really soft and pure string in every track is a welcomed addition to the instrumental core that takes some pressure off the guitar while providing some rhythmic value. Also, without mucking up the melody, some slick production from Beck adds an elusive stand-up bass to the background of the album. It's pretty subtle, but it allows the album to maintain depth without obscuring or burdening the melodies. Oh, and did I mention that there's a prevalent lack of percussion? That's right, the man's made a living of banging, crashing, and exploding sounds and there's only a few drum tracks on this album. And for some reason, it makes sense. If there were a little snare and cymbal in the background on every track, it wouldn't sound bad, but it would add a weird sense of urgency to an album that really has nothing to prove. The usually loud Thurston Moore impatient and in-your-face sonic suggestions of "what if?" and "why not?" are replaced by languid expressions of perfect musical content. Instead of the usual punk call to arms, the album's expressions are far more introverted and less enigmatic. And maybe that's what separates it from even his previous acoustic release, Trees Outside the Academy. Certainly the two albums are technically similar, but on Demolished Thoughts there is even less of a sense of responsibility and continuity. Thurston has finally, quite totally, removed himself from the lifelong cliches that critics have been firing at him. This album seeks not to be "innovative," "cutting-edge," "chaotic," or "noisy" or any of the pigeon-holed tags that writers insist on pushing on Moore, but stands as a deep sigh of rebellious accomplishment.

Demolished Thoughts is a gorgeous album that any musician could be proud of making, but I'm especially happy to see probably one of my favorite guitarist of all time, who has been so predictably unpredictable, finally make a solo album that is totally unpredictably predictable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, and Dan Bennink - The Topography of the Lungs (1970)

The words "free improvisation" inspire an elusive curiosity in some, while encouraging distrusting and annoyed grimaces from many others in the music community. Having roots in both free jazz and modern classical composition structure, the "genre" (or maybe, "set of techniques") seemingly continues where the modal jazz left off, that is trading even more harmony in for atonal structure. The movement values not so much the relationship between pitches and rhythms, but individual textures themselves.

Parker, Bailey, and Bennink's 1970 release on Incus records (the label's first) stands today as the most relevant and quintessential artifact of true, free improvisation. It's seemingly endless labyrinth of cymbal taps, guitar tappings, and saxophone buzzes provide an enigmatic map for listeners to follow, while struggling to find their way through the chaos. Evan Parker's solo work (which both mirrored American avant-garde pioneers such as Coltrane, while making them more abrasive), Derek Bailey's radical departure from traditional guitar technique, and Bennink's absurdist take on jazz percussion all culminate to create a monolithically landmark album. It can be challenging to listen to at first because it's object is to contain as little recognizable material/techniques as possible, but that doesn't mean it's unlistenable or unrewarding. Listen to it like your would a jazz album, and your mind will fill in the dots where the musicians suggest connections. It's extremely fidgety, disjointed, and unsettling at times, but once you get into the mode of listening to it, it'll challenge previous truths you held about rhythm, harmony, and song structure.

Monday, May 23, 2011

RIP Tim Taylor

On this day in 1997, Tim Taylor, frontman of the Dayton, Ohio punk band Brainiac died suddenly and tragically in a car crash. Brainiac (or 3RA1N1AC) were known primarily for their incredibly raucous live shows and their masterwork sophomore LP Bonsai Superstar. Here's my personal favorite track off the album "Radio Apeshot." Link to full album in comments. Never forget the fallen punks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Original Texas Groover: Doug Sahm :: Groover's Paradise (1974)

This post is dedicated to my Texan pal Zach Jones, who, like Doug Sahm, has always been playfully aware of the stigmas that people hold against Texas, but through playful admonishment and sincere pride always tends to turn these stereotypes around and instead represent Texas as a place of strong convictions, values, and fun.

It is this sort of self-awareness that Doug Sahm uses to his advantage in all of his running work, especially in this 1974 release, Groover's Paradise. Sahm plays on your typical western topics, especially in tunes like "Houston Chicks" and "Beautiful Texas Sunshine", but never drags them out to the cheesy extent that most modern country stars do, essentially providing the stigma to most music fans that country music is a genre of gimmicks lacking any substance. No, Doug Sahm does quite the opposite. He plays with the cards of his aforementioned state, but in a way that makes them real, even at sometimes tender.

A part of the success of Sahm's work certainly revolves around his ability to blow the doors down in any genre arena he attempts. People call his style "Tex-mex", but I'd understand that as being a term used because they have no idea how in the hell to briefly classify his style otherwise. So props to the original Texas groover for that. The album opens appropriately with the self-titled track, "Groover's Paradise", which exemplifies the jangly influence the members Doug Clifford and Stu Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival left on Sahm with their studio involvement on this record. These guys allowed for a coherent sounding band, having a great time, unlike the feel of his first solo record, Doug Sahm and Band, which sounds like Doug Sahm just messing around with a bunch of hired guns. This opening track is the anthem and single that sets the theme for the whole album: being a groovin' stoner in Texas is an incredible time, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The second track, "Devil Heart" continues to throw listeners for a loop, with a chugging riff, almost Allman Brothers-esque, that never really builds up beyond a feel-good chorus, which is fine and dandy with me. It's hypnotic and shows that with CCR's rhythm section, Sahm can lay down a really bluesy cut. Following this blues is "Houston Chicks", a sweet autobiographical love song paying homage to the lovely ladies he's made memories with in Houston.

"For The Sake of Rock n Roll" is the kind of song that got me initially interested in Doug Sahm. Lyrics that would at first come off as tongue-in-cheek become genuine once you realize how seriously Sahm valued Rock n roll in his life, almost to the point where he'd sacrifice anything to uphold the joys of the lifestyle. "Just Groove Me" plays out in a similar manner, as Sahm offers that he'll "love you to the sky" if you'll just groove him. He doesn't ask for much here people!

Good lord, "Girls Today (Don't Like To Sleep Alone)" might be one of the most style-defining songs Sahm's ever released. I cannot help but smile as Sahm sings this most socially incorrect song, it's sung too sincerely to get angry with, and so naturally I just take his side on it. He croons, "So if you got someone who loves you, go ahead and try to be yourself," a lyric that is so harshly honest to the situation a sheepish male may find himself in.

As I said before, part of Sahm's success lies in that he can look toward his roots with pride, and with a cover of the Mexican standard "La Cacahuata", meaning "the peanut", he shows that he can in so goofy a manner that it actually works perfectly for the album. I've always had a personal nostalgic relationship with this song as well because it sounds identically like this crummy instrumental tune that came on daily when Will and I spent a month down in Central America.

The album ends with what I believe is the greatest country song ever written, "Catch Me In the Morning". Beginning in a hard place, Sahm tells us "the keg was hard on his head last night" and that he naturally said some things that he now regrets. He's speaking of the problems that every cowboy's gotta deal with, but with the driving chorus chant of "Catch Me In the Morning", it is all about the hope that rests in the light of the morning after. The very un-country driving chord changes that take the slow-groovin' verse for such a wild spin make this the perfect album closer. He's made mistakes, but he looks at the future as a place for forgiveness and redemption. He doesn't seem to ever learn from the hardships that befall a groovin' Texas cowboy, but the purity he links with the morning after make the good balance out the bad, for such is life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Willie Wright--Telling The Truth ('77)

It's officially summer for this old crippled man. Picked up this great album last week.

Willie Wright is a mostly forgotten soul singer, who croons like a true ladies man, smooth as can be with the softest of instrumentation accompanying him. He belongs on the beach, far from trouble--except the kind in his heart, which comes out beautifully in his voice on every track. He's a little like of that guy in Life Aqautic, who's scattered throughout the movie playing Bowie songs in Portuguese, but you know, interesting. and a lot better.

So as the dog day afternoons of the sultry summer turn to pleasant evenings this June, be sure to turn to Willie Wright for company as you barbecue, smoke cigars and sip on jack and cokes.

I'm especially fond of "Africa", "Right On for the Darkness" and "Nantucket Island". grab it in the comments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sea Level - Sea Level (1977)

One of things I missed most about St. Louis while away was KDHX, so I've had their programs going nonstop over the past few days. I got a chance to catch one of my absolute favorite programs tonight, Stumble in the Dark, and DJ Mullins tipped me off to this great '77 self-titled release by the group Sea Level.

I'll say that this album isn't for everyone. It hoists up a sort of cheesy production style that drenched the late 70s classic rock. However, like the majority of Donald Fagen's projects or even guilty pleasures in the likes of Boston, this group has some other secret ingredient going for them that actually makes this production style work to their advantage. In this case, it's a weird tad of Allman Brother's (think Blue Sky and Elizabeth Reed sound) that's resonated throughout the album, showing most significantly on the opener, "Rain in Spain". So clean, so tight. A sound that I've just always liked a lot, even though it stands in stark contrast to a great majority of other music I call perfect. I worked so hard to find a link to this album, as I don't think it carried much of a following into the twenty first century, so grab it in the comments.

Monday, May 9, 2011

File Under Boogie Rock: ZZ Top's Tres Hombres

I'm back in St. Louie for summer, and a dude in heat's gotta put on some blues drenched rockers from ZZ Top's best, Tres Hombres. I used to give them a lot of crap, and I still think they have one of the silliest images in rock n' roll. However, I don't really care anymore. There's a fine line between seeing this album as boring and seeing it as one of the most perfect sounds of the seventies. Either way, try to throw out your prior conceptions towards ZZ Top and give this album a try on a day filled with sweating bullets.

Bardo Pond--Amanita

It's mid May. Being a college student, that means exams. I need something to sustain me. For awhile at least, through this long drone of studying. Until I can turn on and turn up Sweetheart of the Rodeo or Paris 1919 at the week's end. And Spacemen 3 has run their course. Here's Bardo Pond's Amanita from 1996. Lot of noise, but it still rocks. Kinda shoe-gazey at times or post-rock or whatever the hell people call this kind of music. Usually I think it's kinda stupid, but this hit the nail for me. Check it out in comments

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Rock-o'-Lution Hodgepodge


Then this:

And this:

Then this:

Look Over There

Readers of Old Crippled Men,
If you've enjoyed some of the tunes that we've written about on this blog, check out our friend Dan's blog, Cinderblock Tornado. It just got going a little bit ago, but it's already ripe with some great psychedelia, math rock, and pop.

Follow it here.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dream/Aktion Unit - Blood Shadow Rampage (2006)

One of the things that I really love about the improv/noise/jazz scene of the 21st Century, is that since most musicians have a very similar understanding of rhythm ad sound, they have taken many opportunities to make collaborative efforts with fellow noisemakers. While little known due because they've only released one and never had a proper tour, I present to you perhaps the most incredible super-lineup that I've ever heard of in modern music: Dream/Aktion Unit. Consisting of (to name a few notables) drummer Chris Corsano (of the psychedelic Flowers-Corsano du0), guitarist Thurston Moore, guitarist Jim O'Rourke, and saxophonist Paul Flaherty, the band caught my attention at first for no other reason than its novelty as one of my favorite line-ups ever. If you know any of their individual works, its pretty much a combination of what you'd expect. Thurston contributes eerie ticks and scratches of guitar, O'Rourke adds the beef, cymbal-heavy Corsano pounds away in a flood, and Flaherty adds Mats Gustafsson-like sax squeals. If you don't really like this kinda stuff, I understand why you might think it can be obnoxious or silly sometimes, but I really dig and I think you can learn a lot about music by listening to composers like these folks. Link in comments.

The High Llamas - Talahomi Way (2011)

Here's a gem released just a couple of weeks ago by Drag City. The brainchild of Irish guitarist Sean O'Hagan, this charming work is heavy with British folk influences, some electronics, and intriguing Bossa Nova-esque chord arrangements. It's a simple, lounge-y beauty that should be enjoyed while walking around (hopefully in some beautiful May weather) and peering at the curiosities of strangers. While its not the most engrossingly complex or subtle album out there (it only takes a few listens to "get it"), I think it'll give your day a little comforting color. "Take My Hand," and "Fly Baby Fly" are a few personal favorites. Link in comments.

Fucked Up Coming to St. Louis

I don't know if any of you will be excited as I am to hear this news, but Canadian hardcore revivalists Fucked Up will be gracing the Firebird stage on July 1st in St. Louis, Missouri. Me and Minnick saw 'em a couple years ago and they put on a good show.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (2011)

My first encounter with Fleet Foxes was in the Spring of my sophomore year of high school, purchasing their self-titled release at Euclid Records in St. Louis on a whim purely based on the colorful, baroque album art that I hadn't seen done in a long while. Like most scenesters at the time I wore the hell out of that album, and it to some degree became the soundtrack of that late spring.

Oddly enough, it was the baroque chamber pop sound and nostalgic, natural lyrics that I was initially drawn to that eventually turned me off the band. They could write a damn good harmony and produce a consistently catchy album, but it just wasn't personal. It gave me a good feeling, but didn't have the substance in the background to support it. I'm quite happy to say the new album has pushed past this problem significantly.

Helplessness Blues is the most self-reflective work I've heard from Pecknold. It reaches into his struggle creating a follow-up sophomore album and chronicles his life falling apart in pursuit of truly being heard. The church reverbs are still there, as are the old-timey production, and heavenly harmonies resonant of the first album. However, whereas the the first album sung primarily of strawberries, swallows, and summertime, the new album cuts into human nature and has something to actually tell the listener. "Montezuma", "Battery Kinzie", "Someone You'd Admire", and "Grown Ocean" are notable first favorites, and "Helplessness Blues" might be one of my favorite tracks of the whole year. I've only gone through the album a few times so far, so more words will be deserved later, but for now I'd just reccomend grabbing it in the comments and running by your record store today if it strikes your fancy. Even if you burnt yourself out on the Foxes a ways back, like I did, be sure to give this one a chance.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Spring Smoothie for You

Here's a playlist that I've been listening to while walking around or stuff. Don't really know what else to say but enjoy I suppose. Link is in comments.

1. Lemmon Jelly - "Space Walk"

2. John Cale & Terry Riley - "The Soul of Patrick Lee"

3. Can - "I'm So Green"

4. Mogwai - "Acid Food"

5. Jim O'Rourke - "All Downhill From Here"

6. The Soft Boys - "Human Music"

7. Sebadoh - "Skull"

8. Stereolab - "Metronomic Underground"

9. Thee Oh Sees - "The Coconut"

10. The Books - "All You Need Is a Wall"

11. Amps for Christ - "Edward"

12. Moon Duo - "Fallout"

13. Sleater-Kinney - "The Swimmer"

Sunday, May 1, 2011