Thursday, September 27, 2007
Tom Robinson Band - 2-4-6-8 Motorway.mp3
I had heard of Tom Robinson on account of his "Glad To Be Gay" -- somehow disappointingly I recently read that he no longer was gay. So when I saw the black and orange cover with a fist for his new single, I was intrigued. It didn't look gay at all, in as far as I had any idea how anything might look gay. So I listened to the single in the shop, and decided within seconds that I had to buy it. It duly became a hit, but I owned it before it did. I was quite delighted to be a bit of a trendsetter.
The Stranglers - Nice 'n' Sleazy.mp3
By 1977/78, any pub rock act was labelled punk. And so, as a one-time Bay City Rollers fan turned punk devotee, I took my new-found rebellion to a new level by buying music by the likes of The Stranglers, Boomtown Rats e al. "Nice 'n Sleazy" had a great malfeasant sound that corresponded with the idea of punk. The guitar work is pretty nifty, and Hugh Cornwall's vocals are suitably sinister. I still enjoy listening to it.
Uriah Heep - Free Me.mp3
And yet, it was like punk had never happened. I should take pride in my eclecticism in buying records by the Damned and Uriah Heep in possibly the same week. As I said in 1977, there are only two Uriah Heep songs that I know. "Free Me" is one of them. It may very well be one of the worst songs by the band so beloved among the Soviet Union's hipsters of the mid-'80s; I wouldn't know. But to be honest, I rather like "Free Me".
The Wings - With A Little Luck.mp3
Ah yes, the Wings. "Mull Of Kintyre" was another single I bought before it became a hit. This song was on the London Town album. I think it was the only song I ever listened from it. A very fine song, though, with its pretty little melody and the lovely harmonies. My copy of the LP used to skip at one of the "we can do it"s. That was the beauty of vinyl, the way the unique skips could alter one's experience of a song in ways that nobody else would -- except, perhaps, a sibling or friend, and the lucky recipients of mix-tapes.
Plastic Bertrand - Ça Plane Pour Moi.mp3
Uriah Heep and the Wings be damned, at heart I was a mini-punk. I'd spent hours at my friend Jens' place planning the suburban punk revolution. But even as 11/12-tear-old punks, we sort of looked through Plastic Bertrand's shtick. Not so much that we'd not like him -- damn, I bought the LP and even listened to it (it featured a passable cover of the Small Faces' "Sha-la-la-la-lee") -- but he was a novelty act, really. That insight did not protect us from regarding all sorts of other non-punk acts as punk. Ultravox? Punk? Elvis Costello? Punk. At this point I even bought records that sounded like they might be punk, included one by a group called The Killers. Which actually probably was punk.
Sid Vicious - My Way.mp3
It cannot be said that my younger brother -- he of Dead End Kids poster notoriety -- shared my passion for punk. In fact, he hated it so much, that he desecrated my copy of Never Mind The Bollocks...Here's The Sex Pistols with a ballpoint pen. His poor taste in music came in handy when one day he spat a mouthful of soup into my lunch. Not aware of the elevated status which gobbing enjoyed among my fellow punks, I refused to eat any more saliva soup. My mother instructed me to eat the soup regardless (it's only spit!). So I offered my brother a deal: if he ate my soup, I'd give him my copy of the Rubettes single "Juke Box Jive". And thus the Rubettes component of my collection was happily halved, its place taken by the Sex Pistols' double A-side single of bankrobber Ronnie Biggs singing "No One Is Innocent" and Sid Vicious interpreting "My Way". Sid's version was a demonstration of just how uncool Frank Sinatra was considered in the late '70s. FYI: Sid Vicious proceeded to murder his fellow junkie girlfriend before ODing at the age of 22; Frank Sinatra is now regarded by consensus as a legend.
Darts - Come Back My Love.mp3
My pal Jens and I were the leading punks within at least five blocks, but we also liked the Darts. And with good reason. Where we hardcore mini-punks looked down on Showaddywaddy and spat in disgust at Sha-Na-Na, the Darts were the retro band it was okay to like. "Daddy Cool" was just what the title suggested, and "Come Back My Love" remains a fantastic song (and an absolute joy to sing along to). In keeping with my eclectic enthusiasm, I bought the Darts LP in Sweden along with the live album by the Tubes.
Blondie - Denis.mp3
In late 1977 I bought "X-Offender", which within a few weeks became a minor hit in Germany. But Blondie broke big a couple of months later with "Denis", a song I loved so much, I insisted our new kitten should bear that name. I also obtained a pic of Debby Harry in which her nipples showed, apparently specifically for me. I bought the follow-up single "(Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear" twice, once in Germany and then with a different cover in Amsterdam (oh yes, we travelled a lot in 1978). Later that year, Blondie released "Heart Of Glass", which became hugely popular. Like any snob, I dropped Blondie as soon as everybody else got into them. It was time to discover new acts.
The Motors - Airport.mp3
Another "punk" act. But really, look at these dudes. Do they look punk to you? In fact, "Airport" was much closer to the more mature MOR rock which I was increasingly getting into (see the next couple of tracks). To this day I try my best to time with precision the plaintive backing vocal cry of "Airpooort". All the happier I was when I found a new friend on a beach at the Dead Sea trying to execute the same as the song was playing over the tannoy. And we both succeeded admirably, owing to a combined 54 years of practice.
Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street.mp3
By April I had enough of being a punk. Jens I had drifted apart, and now I sought to impress my elder brother, to whom punk had not happened and who was still listening to prog rock. He did turn me on to Jethro Tull's Aqualung, and now I bought a string of records he would surely approve of. "Moths" by the Tull (an exquisite song), some crap by Barclay James Harvest, a bit of old Donovan, as well as "Baker Street" and Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". To my delight, big brother didn't even know either song yet, and was suitably impressed by my sophisticated tatste.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Davy's On The Road Again.mp3
I was not joking when I said that I had picked up a prog vibe, and "Davy's On The Road Again" was a particular favourite. I don't know whether it was the organ intro, the melody, or that great guitar riff that grabbed me, but I loved that song. Quite a different sound from "Ha! Ha! Said The Clown", my initial introduction to the stylings of the South African-born Manfred Mann.
John Paul Young - Love Is In The Air.mp3
Present here on strength of featuring on a hit sampler cassette that played on loop during our camping tour through East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria. On that trip, on a camping site in Czechoslovakia, we made friends with an East-German family whose daughter I later developed a mighty crush on. The lovely Mirella was three years older than I, but we became very close friends. Oh, we talked for hours on end, and here finally was somebody who got me, and, I suppose, she found someone who got her. It was that friendship which planted the seeds for my conviction that women are actually better company than men.
Clout - Substitute.mp3
Considering where I'd land up four years later, my surprise at learning that Clout were from South Africa was quite naïve. There were white people in South Africa? There was pop music in South Africa? There were hot chicks like the blond keyboardist and the dark-haired guitarist with the long-hair in South Africa? Oh my! I didn't like the song well enough to buy the single. Now I regard it as a proper pop classic. Though I learnt only recently that "Substitute" was a cover version of a little-known Righteous Brothers song. The follow-up single, "Save Me", was pretty good, too.
Al Stewart - Time Passages.mp3
Early in 1978, I had bought Uriah Heep. Through a punk phase, I ended up buying Al Stewart's Time Passages album and an Eagles single ("Heartache Tonight") on New Year's Eve. And by a whisker, Al's finest hour -- yes, better than Year Of The Cat, in my view -- might have qualified for this episode's coda.
And if I was in 1978 as I am now, my favourite album of the year would have been:
Bruce Springsteen - Candy's Room.mp3
Monday, September 24, 2007
In 1977, I also discovered the life-changing properties of the hard-on, of the selective and involuntary variety (you needed to know that, right?). I had my first slow dance and my first French kiss -- a lot of action for an 11-year-old. Lest anyone ascribe precocious Casanovaean tendencies to me, I should hasten to point out that this would be the last action I'd get for a few years.
Brotherhood Of Man - Angelo.mp3
I didn't claim that my musical sophistication began in early 1977. All the same, I didn't particular like this song at the time. Yet, there it was, present in 1977 and serving as an ignition key for Any Major Time machine. And, hey, one can always use this song for that much-needed suicide-themed CD mix (possibly sequenced after Eel's "Suicide Life").
Oliver Onions - Orzowei.mp3
I actually didn't totally like this song either; my younger brother was a great fan of it (and, yeah, the chorus is quite catchy). He was also a great Bud Spencer & TErence Hill fan, so he had an Italian obsession then already; alas not one that celebrated the finer aspects of that country's rich cultural heritage. When I hear "Orzowei", I am back in 1977, at a point when life was a haze -- one that would be lifted in June, when life assumed a much greater clarity through the intensity of emotion.
David Dundas - Jeans On.mp3
Posh toff singing advertising song for jeans, thereby appropriating a sartorial symbol of the struggling working class for his privileged exploiting class. But screw all the sociology, I rather enjoy doing the "tch-tch" sounds in the chorus.
Peter Maffay - Und es war Sommer.mp3
A song about a teenager losing his cherry to a woman twice his age; not the typical subject for a German chart-topper. But Maffay is not a typical German singer. Someone once described him as the German Springsteen, which isn't unfair yet not right either. Maffay is quite unique. My older sister has been a huge Maffay fan since his chart debut in 1970 with "Du" (which even charted in the UK). That is real loyalty.
The Floaters - Float On.mp3
Anymajor, and I'm Aries. One of the great soul hits of the year, charming and amusing at the same time. My favourite Floater is Larry, who blurts out his name like a lunatic intent on striking fear into his object of desire. But, hey, let him and Charles and the other two "take you to loveland".
Julie Covington - Don't Cry For Me Argentina.mp3
In early June, my mother bought the single of this. One night she played it for my father, a theatre and opera buff who probably would have liked any of the crap inflicted upon us by that revolting grease-head Andrew Lloyd-Webber. And, indeed, Mom and Dad really enjoyed that song immensely. A couple of nights later, a shrill scream echoed through out house, alerting me to the notion I was now fatherless. In the subsequent weeks, my mother was totally obsessed by this record, playing it over and over and over, her loud sobs providing a rhythm section which Lloyd-Webber was foolish to discard. I cannot have an objective opinion of that song's quality. I love that song because it evokes such intense emotions. And I hate the song for the same reason. Catch me on the right day, and you'll find that it can still produce tears welling in my eyes.
Space - Magic Fly.mp3
This was a bit of a novelty hit, as instrumentals often are. Space were actually a pretty cool French disco act whose music might well be sought out by aficionados of the genre. It's actually a pretty good song, even now. I had the single of this. It got stolen at the last church youth camp I bothered attending, in 1979. The youth leaders didn't even bother to investigate the theft of my records (the violation of the commandments about theft and coveting thy neighbour's goods notwithstanding), so, you know, fuck them.
Hot Chocolate - You Win Again.mp3
Aaaah, the sound of summer of 1977. I'm not sure whether it is acceptable to the Taste Police to like Hot Chocolate (as if I care), but even its most militant, leather-coated officers must concede that "So You Win Again" is a slice of perfect pop-soul.
Rod Stewart - Sailing.mp3
Yes, I know, it was a hit in 1975. Yet it belongs here. See, in August 1977, my brothers and I went on a church camp. Contrary to one's expectations, it was a fantastic fortnight. The group of youths was great, making for a brilliant atmosphere. And I fell "in love" with the lovely Antje. Of course I was too shy to do anything about it, other than carving her name on my bed's headboard (and anywhere else I found suitable). A night or two before our departure -- the day we received news of Elvis' death -- we had a disco evening. I was intent on asking Antje for a slow dance, and practised one with one of the youth leaders, the generously bosomed Doris, to Ralph McTell's "Streets Of London". Next ballad would be my cue.
After loads of Sweet and T Rex songs: the opening notes of Rod Stewart's "Sailing". Up I got, sexy in my tight white jeans and navy t-shirt, making a beeline across the dancefloor for the lovely Antje. Halfway across, approaching from the right wing, came Roland. I did not know that he too had taken a fancy to the lovely Antje, but somehow realised it at that moment. It was like High Noon; tumbleweed blowing; nervous eyes darting hither and tither. Little me and big Roland, both after the same girl, with the entire crowd watching from the wings. Our paths met. Instinctively, I shoulder-charged my beastly rival out of the way, approached the lovely Antje and asked her for the dance. She looked inquiringly at her best friend, Kathrin, who nodded consent (for which I'll love her forever). So Antje and I had our awkward first - and, alas, last -- dance, with all my pals giving me the thumbs up, and Roland plotting a revenge which never came. After the camp, I never saw Antje again. But not a year goes by when I don't think of her.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Abba - Fernando (live).mp3
If it was 1976, there had to be Abba. I recall buying the "Mamma Mia" single for my elder brother, and would have posted that. But I suspect everybody who has any interest in Abba will have that already. Instead, here is a 1977 live recording of the other inescapable Abba hit of 1976: "Fernando", a song that had a magnificently naff video.
Maxine Nightingale - Right Back To Where We Started From.mp3
Released in 1975, this became a big hit in Germany in '76. A Northern Soul classic apparently, "Right Back To..." has a traditional Motown feel with a strong dash of mid-70s pop. It's all quite infectious.
Harpo - Movie Star.mp3
Harpo - Horoscope.mp3
The critics weren't big on the Swedish singer with the penchant for performing barefoot. The critics were fools, because Harpo created some fine pop music. Poor guy's chart career ended when a horse kicked him in the head, which may be unique in the history of popular music. Apparently Harpo, now57, is still making music.
Slik - Forever And Ever.mp3
One of Slik's members was Midge Ure, who a year after this song topped the UK charts went on to join the Rich Kids, then Ultravox, and then became co-responsible for the Band Aid thing (receiving very little credit when Geldof got it all). If I was asked to select a song that would define the sound of 1976 pop, I might very well pick "Forever And Ever". And, you know, I actually like this track a lot still.
Jesse Green - Nice And Slow.mp3
Two years after George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" came Jamaican Jesse Green's "Nice And Slow", which echoed the not-quite-disco-soul-dance vibe. The flute riff is particularly inspired. I've heard of a12" remix which omits the flutes, an act which would provide me with further ammunition against the whole idea of remixes. Why would anyone need a remix of a song which sounds so good and is so massively danceable in its original mix.
Leo Sayer - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.mp3
Yes, it is indeed a bit of a ridiculous song, but can you resist (trying to) sing along with the falsetto, or to the doo-doo-doo-doo-de-de-de-did backing vocals, or join our man Leo in the hearty "hoooo"s? Thought not.
Johnny Wakelin - In Zaire.mp3
Mohammad Ali vs George Foreman. The Rumble in the Jungle. 'nuff said. Back in the day, I was actually a Joe Frazier fan, and was delighted to find among my late father's possessions an autograph by the great man (since faded, alas). He also had an autographed picture of the erstwhile Cassius Clay, obtained when he interviewed The Greatest in 1966 in London while he covered the football World Cup. Sadly, that autograph has gone missing.
Nico Haak - Schmidtchen Schleicher.mp3
Among the Schlager dross of 1976, there was the novelty dross. "Schmidtchen Schleicher" was regarded hilarious by Germans because of Niko Haak's peasoup-thick Dutch accent and the "amusing" lyrics about elastic legs slipping across a dancefloor. Still, I hear it today and recall the ten-year-old Dude being rather entertained by Haak's comedy. I believe this was also a big hit in East-Germany, which might give rise to theories about how Nico Haak was instrumental in the events that led to the reunification of the two Germanys, which our man just managed to witness before his death in 1990 at the age of 51.
The Carpenters - There's A Kind Of Hush.mp3
The Carpenters didn't really register on my radar in the 1970s. I took an interest in them only in the late '80s, when I picked up their first compilation of hits, which covered only their successes up to 1973. Some time later, I heard "There's A Kind Of Hush" and it transported me straight back to 1976. I didn't particularly like the song then, nor do so now. But it featured on the soundtrack that scored my year '76.
Tina Rainford - Silver Bird.mp3
Many readers of this blog have not asked me: "Any Major, you frequently refer to a musical form called Schlager, which we understand is a German genre of music. We do not wish to download foreign-language music when you have so many other wonderful things to download during our limited working hours (in truth, we really do not know where to start, for your taste and selections are impeccable). But what does Schlager actually sound like?" Well, non-existent questioner, listen to "Silver Bird" for a fine example of the nuances and sound of the German Schlager as performed in English by a Berlin-born daughter of a US soldier. "Silver Bird" also was a minor hit in the US.
Boney M - Daddy Cool.mp3
Herr K from Totally Fuzzy will disqualify me from the Fuzzy's Blog of the Year award for posting a Boney M song, but I must remain true to the purpose of this series. And much as I hate to admit it, this is a pretty good song. Indeed, if Boney M hadn't jumped the Zugspitze after 1977 with hideous crap like "Rivers Of Babylon", "Rasputin" and the hilariously bad "We Kill The World", they (or Frank Farian, who did half of the vocals) might be remembered with greater respect. "Daddy Cool", "Ma Baker", "Belfast" and their cover of "Sunny" are fine disco-pop songs (even if the lyrics were really bad. Especially those of "Belfast").
Tina Charles - I Love To Love.mp3
You have to love this disco-pop song alone for the Wooooooooooooo's. I'd like Kylie to cover this. Tina Charles was a member of 5000 Volts, who had a hit with the Euro-disco song "I'm On Fire". "I Love To Love" was produced by Biddu, the man responsible for Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting".
And if I was in 1976 as I am now, my favourite album of the year would have been:
Stevie Wonder - Knocks Me Off My Feet.mp3
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Foo Fighters - Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running).mp3
The post needs a theme song, and it was either David Ford's great "Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck) or this fine rocker from Foo Fighter's brandnew album (thanks to Serenity Now, by the way).
Hello Saferide - I Was Definitely Made For These Times.mp3
I utterly love Hello Saferide. This is the new single, the first to be released in the UK (the single also includes "The Quiz", one of the finest songs of this decade, and I'm not exaggerating; direct download link). The track references the Beach Boys and has an exuberant Motown feel to it, with the handclaps. Play it first thing in the morning to get the day going -- by dancing like manically and stupidly from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen. More Hello Saferide here.
Jill Sobule - One Of These Days.mp3
Jill Sobule had one fluke hit in the '90s and vanished from the limelight before anyone could notice. That is a pity. Her 2000 album Pink Pearl is hugely appealing -- and I suspect it might have influenced Hello Saferide/Annika Norlin. "One Of These Days" is an upbeat folk-rock song which references the New Jack Swing. One has to love a song that features as great a line as this: "One of these days I'm gonna touch the sky, like that awful song 'I Believe I Can Fly', I believe I can fly."
Bob Evans - Don't You Think It's Time.mp3
I saw the Australian in concert in July, supporting the excellent Farryl Purkiss. On strength of his performance I bought his second solo album, Suburban Songbook. It has been on regular rotation not only on my iPod, but also on that of Any Minor Dude, who'll be 13 in November. Evans has a nice line in folk-pop, a sound which can produce happiness even when the lyrics are a bit morose. More Bob Evans here.
Josh Rouse - Love Vibration.mp3
A track from 1972, the middle one of Rouse's hat-trick of masterpiece albums. You might try successfully not to sing along to the "And you people don't know what I'm talking about", but you will sing the backing singers' response line "Yeah, you people don't know what he's talking about". Right on.
Weezer - Falling For You.mp3
My favourite Weezer song from Pinkerton. Few rock singers can pull of the trick of singing the words "Holy Moly", and get away with it. A proper '90s classic.
Herman Düne - I Wish I Could See You Soon.mp3
What kind of name is Herman Düne for a band? Even by Swedish standards! It sounds like the name of your German teacher. Hear the song, though, and you ought to forgive them their possibly deliberately uncool name. The hint of the Caribbean creates an immensely happy vibe, the interplay between singer and backing vocals is sweet, the lyrics are witty ("and you hit my heart with a harpoon") -- how can this song not cheer one up?
Tally Hall - Good Day.mp3
A good title with which to wrap up this cheering mix. Why aren't Tally Hall huge? Their version of "Smile Like You Mean It" was better than the original by the Killers. And "Good Day" is a marvellous stew of the Beatles, the Sparks, ELO, Squeeze, the Killers and some early '80s New Wave act I cannot quite identify. Glorious!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
1. Eels - Marie Floating Over The Backyard (2005)
2. Clem Snide - Evil vs Good (2001)
3. Jim Stafford - Swamp Witch (1973)
4. Stan Ridgway - Camouflage (1986)
5. The Go! Team - Phantom Broadcast (2005)
6. The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil (1968)
7. Procol Harum - A Salty Dog (1969)
8. Johnny Cash - Hung My Head (2002)
9. Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow (1997)
10. Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (2005)
11. Mazzy Star - Taste Of Blood (1990)
12. Imogen Heap - Getting Scared (1998)
13. The Cure - Close To Me (acoustic) (2001)
14. Springbok Nude Girls - Baby Murdered Me (1997)
15. Foo Fighters - Hell (2005)
16. Marilyn Manson - If I Was Your Vampire (2007)
17. Sparklehorse - Ghosts In The Sky (2006)
18. Medeski, Martin & Wood - End Of The World Party (2004)
Monday, September 10, 2007
And so I approached Night Falls Over Kortedala with much indulgent good will. I was delighted when Jens started off in vintage Scott Walker-mode (for all his vocal limitations, Jens is Scott's natural indie heir) on "I Remember Every Single Kiss". I tapped my toes, aggressively out of rhythm for all the excitement, when "Sipping On The Sweet Nectar" revealed itself as a Philly Soul groove incorporating strings that belong to the theme of a ’70s TV cop show. I loved "The Opposite Of Hallelujah", which I had heard before, for maintaining the happy ’70s sound of soul’s heyday. I delighted in the very Lekmanian line "The ocean made me feel stupid".
And then things started to drift. Oooh, he's doing a western theme now ("Into Eternity"). Oooh, he's sampling Curtis Mayfield (on "A Postcard To Nina"). Oooh, Smiths guitars ("Your Arms Around Me") and Morrissey going into falsetto vocals ("Shirin"). Oooh, children's TV theme intro ("It Was A Strange Time In My Life"; actually, I've read Jens samples a recording of his childhood self)... Moments that grabbed my attention only momentarily (I lie, I love "A Postcard To Nina"), rather than being sucked in by the whole. Not until the album's penultimate and most interesting track, "Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig" (sung in English, it means "Maybe I'm In Love With You") was my interest completely roused — just in time for "Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo", which borrows from Pat Boone's "Speedy Gonzales". It may well be the only Lekman song to which I have taken an instant dislike.
Night Falls Over Kortedala is not at all a poor album, even by Jens Lekman's high standards. My ambivalence is the product of lofty expectations based on the works of genius represented on the previous two albums, which were less sample-frenzied than the new set. Indeed, the novelty of spotting the sample or borrowed riff wears off fairly soon. One feels that with Kortedala, Lekman overplayed his hand a little in an ambitious attempt to live up to his reputation as a latter-day Jonathan Richman. And, like Richman, Jens at times forgets to keep it simple.
But Lekman at his not-very-best is still better than many, or most, artists at their peak. It is an album worth listening to, if alone for the excellent and typically idiosyncratic lyrics. But it has nothing of the astonishing quality of songs like "Maple Leaves, "The Cold Swedish Winter", the mesmerisingly pretty "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song", the unbelievable "A Sweet Summers' Night On Hammer Hill" (with the demented bom-de-bom-de-bom-de-bom-de-boms), "A Man Walks Into A Bar" (what a fantastic lyrical set-up), or the absolutely intoxicating brilliance of "Your Are The Light" (those lyrics and tune! Download it now!). And check out the Motownesque EP-only track, "I Don't Know If She's Worth 900 Kr", one of Lekman's finest works. Where on the older songs the quirk was a hugely appealing characteristic, on Kortedala it feels a little self-conscious. Or perhaps I am failing to spot a work of genius. I will keep listening to Night Falls Over Kortedala to find out.
Jens Lekman - A Postcard For Nina.mp3 (from Night Falls Over Kortedala, 2007)
Jens Lekman - Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig.mp3 (from Night Falls Over Kortedala, 2007)
Jens Lekman - A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill.mp3 (from Oh, You're So Silent Jens, 2005)
Jens Lekman - Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song.mp3 (from Oh, You're So Silent Jens, 2005)
Jens Lekman - A Man Walks Into A Bar.mp3 (from Oh, You're So Silent Jens, 2005)
Jens Lekman - You Are The Light.mp3 (from When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, 2004)
Jens Lekman - The Cold Swedish Winter.mp3 (from When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, 2004)
Jens Lekman - I Don't Know If She's Worth 900 Kr.mp3 (from You Deserve Better Than A Bum Like Me EP, 2005)
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
"I try not to covet the music that I love, I’ve done that in the past, where something becomes popular and then suddenly I don’t want to go to the shows anymore. I think selling out is a lewd point when the music stays the same. So if the music is pure, then why not offer it out to the people and give them something better than, you know, Fall Out Boy or other crap that’s on the radio."
Rilo Kiley's new album, Under The Blacklight, puts Jenny's answer to the test. Having moved to a big label, the new CD is unabashedly poppy and commercial. I love Rilo Kiley, I thought the previous album, More Adventurous, was a work of beauty. And now there was this '80s referencing Jenny-as-Debby-Harry gig, one on which only two tracks sound like traditional Rilo Kiley. In my review of the album, I asked: "Can there be an accommodation with old and new fans? Will the old fanbase buy into the new sound ? Will Under The Blacklight accomplish the mainstream breakthrough it so evidently aspires to? And will the old fans still be there if it doesn't?"
The trick is to divorce Blacklight from its predecessors, which I tried to do, with incomplete success, in the review. If this album had been released by an unknown act, the blogosphere would be hyping it as "the next big thing", because this is a superior pop album. So we must lay to rest the indie-folkies of the first three albums, and live with happy memories. Oh, and happy these memories will be. The delicious country-folk of "More Adventurous", the dripping-with-sex confusion of "Portions For Foxes" ('...and then talking leads to touching, and touching leads to sex, and then there is no mystery left'. And that command: "Come here!" Hell, what an incredible song), the Patsy Cline homage of "I Never", the folkish sing-along of "With Arms Outstretched", the acerbic sassiness of "It's A Hit", the Bright Eyes-influence (or influencing) of "Plane Crash In C", the heartbreaking "Does He Love You?", the Celtic hues of "Rest Of My Life"...
Will my love for these be diminished by a turn in the group's musical direction, when the product of that change is great on its own merits? Should an artist be a hostage to our expectations? As I write, I'm dancing along to the catchy-ass chorus of "Breakin' Up". And when "Dreamworld" (described somewhere else as "the best song Fleetwood Man never did") comes on, I'll groove along to that as well. I am falling in love with Under The Blacklight, too.
Rilo Kiley - Breakin' Up.mp3 (from Under The Blacklight, 2007)
Rilo Kiley - Dreamworld.mp3 (from Under The Blacklight, 2007)
Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous.mp3 (from More Adventurous, 2004)
Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes.mp3 (from More Adventurous, 2004)
Rilo Kiley - It's A Hit.mp3 (from More Adventurous, 2004)
Rilo Kiley - With Arms Outstretched.mp3 (from The Execution of All Things, 2002)
Rilo Kiley - Rest Of My Life.mp3 (from Take-Offs And Landings, 2001)
Rilo Kiley - Plane Crash In C.mp3 (from Take-Offs And Landings, 2001)
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Billy Joel is the big kahuna in the Pissing off the Taste Police stakes. I’ve copped hideous abuse for confessing my love for some of the music of Billy Joel, without embarrassment (because apologising for enjoying certain music is for losers). Oh, I can see why people might hate Billy Joel’s music, or even the man. “
Billy Joel – She’s Always A Woman.mp3
On Side 2 of The Stranger, the tender melody belies the bitter hurt this manipulative, indecisive bitch has caused poor, needy Billy. “And she’ll promise you more than the Garden of Eden, and then she carelessly cuts you and laughs while you’re bleeding. But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be. Blame it all on yourself, ‘cause she’s always a woman to me”. This is a love song with a sharp edge, quite unlike the cheesily romantic sentiments of karaoke favourite “Just The Way You Are”.
Billy Joel – Summer,
Easily Billy Joel’s finest three minutes. From the lovely piano intro and the powerful yet subtle drumming to the poetically resigned lyrics that hint at bipolarism (“it’s either sadness or euphoria”), this deceptively simple song has a depth that is often overlooked. Listen to it closely, this is the best thing Billy Joel has ever done. This is the live version from the magnificent Songs In The Attic album; a set of lesser-known Joel songs re-recorded live because our man wasn't happy with the original productions. The original appears on Turnstiles.
Billy Joel –
From Turnstiles, this is Billy Joel’s stab at creating an American standard. And he succeeds admirably. Had it be written by Hoagy Carmichael, it would rightly be placed alongside the great American standards. The fact that it has not attained such a reputation can be attributed to the low level of critical esteem Billy Joel enjoys. But what a mighty song it is, complemented by a restrained arrangement and a terrific vocal performance. I like to hear this song being performed Tom Waits, slowed down a bit with a lounge arrangement. That would be stupendous.
Billy Joel – Captain Jack.mp3
The original on Piano Man was musically quite unremarkable. Given the big rock treatment on Songs In The Attic, this is a powerful song. Another track about alienation, this one about “you”, a bored waster from a wealthy family looking forward to a fix of heroin, to emotionally wrecked to give much of a fuck about the death of his father. As Joel addresses “you”, we get to know the character, and fully agree with Joel’s vicious delivery and wish drummer Liberty DeVitto’s brutality would be directed not at the inanimate drumkit, but at “you”. Sample lyric: "And if you can't understand why your world is so dead, why you've got to keep in style and feed your head; well you're 21 and still your mother makes your bed. And that's too long" (and at this point DeVitto goes really medieval on the drumkits' ass). How sweet that in 1980 concert crowds would still cheer for the use of the word “masturbate”.
Billy Joel - Rosalinda's Eyes.mp3
Forget the Latin stereotypes of the lyrics, and listen to the melody, held together by the jazzy, rhythmic acoustic guitar. The flute interlude is quite enchanting. And hear the line “Oh Havana, I’ve been searching for you everywhere”: Billy Joel knew how to phrase a line. From
Billy Joel – Allentown.mp3
Billy Joel getting as close to fellow New Jersey preacher Bruce Springsteen as he ever did, if not musically then lyrically.
Thanks to Anonymous' comment, I've become aware of the connection between the family of Billy Joel and that of retail giants Neckermann, whose grandfather basically stole the business from Joel's grandfather. Story here.