Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Pop Group - Thief of Fire

Today's entry about the Pop Group makes pleasant company with yesterday's on Suicide. Although they both have a shared affinity for occasional shrieking, they sound quite different. However, both bands pushed post-punk to its outer limits, making music that could only be classified as post-punk because what it truly was hadn't been invented yet, or was impossible to classify.

The band had a short life, forming in 1978 in Bristol, England and breaking up by 1980. Their debut album, Y, remains their classic and is seen by many as a forgotten masterpiece. You can sum up the Pop Group by throwing punk, funk, free jazz, and dub reggae in a blender, setting it on high, and recording the result while the blender is still mixing. You hear elements of familiarity, funky bass lines, jazz guitar, timely percussion, but then waves of feedback, screeching horns, chaotic drums, and bipolar vocals. It's a beautiful mess.

The Pop Group - Thief of Fire

"I admit my crime
I'm a thief of fire
I admit my crime crime crime
I'm a thief of fire

We do not have anything
We have not learned anything
We do not know anything
Do not understand
We do not sell anything
We do not help
But we will betray
And we will not forget
And we will not forget
I admit my crime
I'm a thief of fire

But who to trust
When you're stealing from a nation of killers
Do I trust myself?
I'm like a tramp in its cage
Flower in Moscow
Losers take all
We are here to go
All lovers betray
All lovers betray"

The Pop Group: Stylus Magazine's Second Thought

The Pop Group - Y @Amazon.com

Monday, July 30, 2007

Suicide - Ghost Rider

Suicide were one of the first significant no-wave acts and the pioneers of the electroclash/ electropunk sound. What Suicide accomplished with their 1977 self-titled debut would be done to death in later years, but in its original form it still sounds just as affecting today. All their imitators simply pale in comparison (I'm looking at you the Faint!) although the Jesus and Mary Chain did take some of what Suicide laid down and made their own masterpiece from it. While they were never popular in their heyday, their influence was significant. In addition to the aforementioned, some of Suicide's fans were/are among Joy Division, R.E.M, Bruce Springsteen, the Cars, the Sisters of Mercy, Black Flag, and Soft Cell.

I'm going to feature the album's first track here, "Ghost Rider." If you can, first try and clear you mind from any thought of that terrible Nicholas Cage comic book movie. The song is pretty characteristic of Suicide's style, simplistic and repetitive distorted synth lines, drum machines used at its bare minimum, and idiosyncratic vocals, varying from deadpan to stammering to outright shrieking.

Suicide - Ghost Rider

"Ghost Rider motorcycle hero
Baby baby he's a lookin' so cute
Ridin' around in a blue jump suit

Ghost Rider motorcycle hero
Baby, baby, baby he's a blazin' away
Like the stars, stars, stars in the universe

Ghost Rider motorcycle hero
Baby, baby, baby he's screamin' the truth
America, America's killin' its youth

Hey baby he's screamin' away
America's killin' its youth

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider"

It's a bit surreal watching this live video, as the lighting, clothing and quality of footage seems so dated, but the music itself sounds so ahead of its time.

Another "Ghost Rider" video, but this time almost entirely focused on Alan Vega's face, emphasizing his vocal performance.

Suicide - First Album @Amazon.com

Friday, July 27, 2007

PFFR - 3 Murdered 5 Dead w/Phillip

PFFR are the twisted geniuses behind Wonder Showzen (the best show MTV has had since The State,) yet outside the show's most devoted fanbase, their music is unknown. According to the members, "A shimmering gem crashed down from the heavens, black clouds exploded unto the Earth and PFFR was formed." Other times PFFR are "group of highly motivated young people that formed a band in order to start a riot in the local public library." They also are home to one of the strangest band websites I have ever seen.

The band's music is equally strange avant-garde electronica. This song is my favorite from their one and only album, United We Doth. I love how they use of a drum machine on the chorus.

PFFR - 3 Murdered 5 Dead w/Phillip

Now for a few bonus PFFR videos:

Japoney Apple

Our Concern

Wonder Showzen Episode 1x01:

PFFR - United We Doth @Amazon.com

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lightning Bolt - Dracula Mountain

Drum & bass is an unfortunate genre. That's one of downsides of Kraftwerk, the whole club 4/4 thumpin' ecstasy popping rave scene that would eventually become an electronica subdivision. Actually I'm completely ignorant to the differences between techno, house, trance and drum & bass. What I've heard though is house= boring techno, trance = pretentious techno, and drum & bass = minimalist techno. What is techno? Obnoxious. I can never wrap my head around that scene. I do like Apex Twin though.

Lightning Bolt, a duo from my wonderful home state of Rhode Island are a different type of drum and bass. Their music consists of drum...and bass. Two guys, two instruments. "Drum and bass?" one may say. "That sounds boring." I would smack that person across the face, throw on Wonderful Rainbow and trample that misconception into the ground and out of their minds. When you're lacking in band members, to make music that sounds just as commanding as a full band, you have to put a lot into your playing. Say you have a 10 member band, excessive orchestra section, all that. Each member could just half-ass it and to the average listener it would sound perfectly fine. However, when it's just two guys, you don't have the protective shield that numbers offer you. Every note you play counts. That said, Lightning Bolt at times will rock as hard as anything else you've ever heard. My favorite song of theirs, "Dracula Mountain" has a build-up about 3 minutes in which leads to such an expulsion of pure rawk that it's practically impossible not to bang your head, pump your fist, or do whichever dance that flies your weird flag the highest. It's the epitome of rock, and a section that I'll often use in a judging scheme for rating how hard something actually rocks. I grade my rock levels on a curve, and "Dracula Mountain" is that kid who always aces the test.

Lightning Bolt - Dracula Mountain

"See you on the evening
See you in the dawn
See you all today long
Then I will be gone

See you in the evening
See you in the dawn
See you all today long
Then in the beyond"

Good luck actually making out those lyrics. Brian Chippendale, Lightning Bolt's drummer and "vocalist" sings using a modified phone receiver strapped to the inside of his mouth. Brian Gibson is also unconventional with his bass, using a cello tuning, CDGA rather than the typical EADG and uses a banjo string for the top A.

Now for an incredible live video featuring my said favorite part of "Dracula Mountain." Whoa.

And then the Muppets play "Dracula Mountain." Transcendental.

Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow @ Load Records

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Faust - Picnic On A Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableux

First things first, I have a final exam tomorrow, so this entry will be breezed through. Summer courses are such a pain in the ass.

Now I've made passing references to "Krautrock" in the last 2 entires. If you're unfamiliar, it refers to the late 60's to the mid 70's experimental scene in Germany. In brief, its influence on rock music as we know it was immeasurable. The biggest band to come out of it was undoubtedly Kraftwerk, a band that is an important as the Beatles. Though bands like Silver Apples laid the groundwork, Kraftwerk invented electronic music. The other bands involved were almost as significant, with Can, Neu!, Tangerine Dream and this entry's own, Faust being the most notable ones.

In terms of time as well as it not being necessary, I'm not going to go into describing the song. I can't make out any of these lyrics, and to simply verbalize what the song's doing musically would be redundant. We do have ears. I'll just say, it's pretty epic, features multiple movements , including one of the catchiest synth riffs you'll ever hear, and ends abruptly.

Faust - Picnic On A Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableux

The song comes from Faust's fourth and my personal favorite album of their's Faust IV, originally released in 1973.

Faust IV @Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Boredoms - Hoy & Super Are

Your grandmother will hate Boredoms. Boredoms will frighten your pet parrot. Boredoms are not reccomended for pre-pubescent individuals, as if exposed they may effect your development in unknown ways.

This is weird week on the Boner blog. I'm digging out some of the strangest music I can find on my hard drive drive for your listening pleasure, or perhaps listening terror. In terms of oddity, chaos and inaccessibility, they're hard to exceed. I'll begin with a brief history on the band, as it their case, it can be as interesting as the music. Before forming the band during 1986 in Osaka Japan, eventual leader Yamantaka Eye headed the noise band Hanatarash. They focused more on their extreme performance art live show rather than the music. Apparently to even attend one of their shows you needed to fill out a waiver. At one show Yamantaka sliced a dead cat in half with a machete. Others involved molotov cocktails and oil drums. The most infamous of all though was one gig where a backhoe was actually driven through the back of the venue, smashing through the stage. Rather than forming the Boredoms as a new venture, they were formed as a necessity, as Hanatarash was soon banned from playing anywhere. Over a few years, Boredoms popularity began to grow and the band befriended Sonic Youth, with Yamantaka Eye collaborating with the band on what is undoubtedly their most difficult EP, TV Shit. Nirvana were also fans of the band, something that helped get the band signed to a major label as well as a main-stage spot on Lollapalooza (!). Now this leads me to their major label debut, Pop Tatari, from which this entry's first song comes from.

Boredoms - Hoy

This song is indescribable. Just don't let the gentle whistles at the beginning fool you. This song is everything but subdued. A major label...this! Nirvana had the music industry by its balls. Also realize that this "song" is probably the closest the album has to a conventional piece of music. I think I really like about the album is the album is far from a pleasurable listen, what all in all music strives to do. In a strange way the complete discord and unattractiveness of it all is captivating.

A live performance from this era of the band:

Then the band completely changed (and for the better!) In 1998 they put what's considered to be their best album Super Ae. The sound is vastly different, more minimalistic with plenty of newly found ambient textures, extended instrumental sections, and a apparent krautrock influence. It's considered by many to be a modern day avant-garde masterpiece. I hesitate to split it up, as it's meant to be taken as a collective, but I'll feature the second track, "Super Are"
here. This sound sounds absolutely huge...I need to put this album on a hi-fi system some day. It's really an experience to listen to.

Boredoms - Super Are

Recently Boredoms were in the news for organizing a 77-member drum circle in Brooklyn NY on 7/7. From the looks of it in this youtube video, it was fantastic. The sound is unfortunately rather muffled, but the sight of 77 synchronized drummers pounding in midst of a packed crowd makes up for it. That would have been incredible to see first hand.

Boredoms - Super Ae @Amazon.com

Boredoms - Pop Tatari @Amazon.com

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Heat - Paper Hats

I'm always fascinated by the way we react to an album upon first listen. I've found that some of my favorite records (The Pixies' Doolittle, Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender, Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand and the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy for example) were ones I could barely stand the first time I heard them. I'm not quite sure why this is... Maybe something along the lines of the albums not conforming to what we're used to musically and to appreciate them we need to ease ourselves in, gradually becoming more familiar. On the contrary, some albums that sound great upon first listen can often fall flat with subsequent plays. Some albums just suck. However lastly, rarest of them all, are albums that blow you away upon first listen, and simultaneously are unlike anything you're heard before.

I've had this experience recently with This Heat's 1981 record Deceit. I discovered the band on the last.fm similar artists lists for both Pere Ubu and Suicide and with a moment's curiosity I gave the album a blind download. Wikipedia furthered my curiosity, with the entry on the band stating that This Heat "is widely considered to be a missing link between progressive rock (especially krautrock) and such later experimental genres as post-punk, post-rock and noise rock". It ranking #20 on Pitchfork's top albums of the 1980's wasn't too shabby either. I loaded it up on to my Ipod and finally gave it a play a few days later during a 6-hour car ride. I was struck with how timeless the album sounded, as it could have been recorded and released this year, still sounding ahead of its time. Animal Collective owe a huge debt to this band, as do countless of other today's experimental acts. Perhaps that's why I could get into this band from a single listen: that so many aspects of their sound have been done to death today, and when I finally heard it in its purest crystalline form, all I I could be was taken aback.

My favorite track from the album is "Paper Hats," an intense schizophrenic masterpiece involving tape loops, colliding time signatures, quiet to loud to quiet dynamics, frantic screams, and at times, complete cacophony. It's absolutely insane and I love every second of it.

This Heat - Paper Hats

"well, what do we expect
paper hats?
or maybe even roses?
the sound of explosions?
oh no, is this any easier?
comfy? climax? ego?
decorations up or down?
the sound of explosions
what does this tune signify?
what is its meaning?
is it really that straight forward?
or are our ears beyond words?"

Now for a first on this blog, I'm going to upload the entire album. I wouldn't do that if it were commercially available, but it's been out of print in the US for over a decade, with the lowest offering price on amazon.com being $39.99. Grab it here and have your mind blown.

This Heat - Deceit [album]

Oh yeah... the album was recorded in an abandoned meat factory.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Low - July

Slowcore... what a terrible word. I'd take it over Sadcore though any day. So Slow/Sadcore, what do you speak of? Well if you look at the history of it, Galaxie 500 were the predators to the genre, as it wasn't until the Red House Painters and Codeine came along that the term was coined. Though an eclectic mix of bands have been described as "slowcore" its main ingredients involve an understated, occasionally lagging rhythm section, minimal chord changes, and of course slow tempos. Now taken at face value that sounds pretty boring, and yes, when at its worst it can be. The first time I listened to Codeine I was literally knocked out by the fourth track, pun intended. However in its more shining moments the genre can be incredibly atmospheric, hypnotic, and beautiful. Depending one your view, it can either be one of the least self-indulgent or most self-indulgent genres out there. Me, not one for "look at me!" solos and musical excess side with the former.

This Low track defining slowcore quite well. It's a very pretty song. It also happens to my last entry on this month+ spree of "Summer Songs," something I originally intended to do for a week. I'm not sure what I'll cover next week...maybe weird bands.

Low - July

"Wait -- it's late
We've missed the date
Gone, I guess
With the rest, the rest

They'll never wake us in time
They'll never wake us in time
Maybe we'll wait 'til July

Now -- at last
I hear them pass
Gone, I guess
With the rest, the rest

They'll never wake us in time
They'll never wake us in time
Maybe we'll wait 'til July
Then August, September
October, November or December

La la, la la la"

"July" comes off of the Low's Steve Albini produced album Things We Lost in the Fire, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2001.

Low - Things We Lost in the Fire @ Sub Pop Records

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Rentals - My Summer Girl

The Rentals...damn. I'm rediscovering these guys as I type. You see, in my early high school years I was obsessed with Weezer. I'm not using obsessed lightly here: I'd be one to pay almost $20 for a Japanese imported two-track single (for "Photograph" nonetheless!) The albums themselves weren't enough... I needed all the individual singles, t-shirts, posters, alternative versions, this, I even have an entire CD case completely filled with CD-Rs of live shows and demo versions. Looking at my hard drive, I have 5.22 gigs of Weezer related material. Jeez. To top it all off I paid $85 to see them at a sold-out-within-seconds show at the Avalon in Boston.

But eventually my love affair with Weezer began to tide down. I then pursued the Pixies after hearing a cover of "Velouria" that Weezer did, and that began a new era of music for me. I was in my Pixies phase for years, that obsession not being shaken until I stumbled upon Joanna Newsom last year. I still love all them all though, yet I could frisk over my embarrassing nu-metal jaunt in middle school.

However in the case of Weezer vary few recordings from their 2000-onwards output I particularly dig anymore. Actually, I've probably just come to the realization that the majority of them suck. The Blue Album and Pinkerton however are undeniable classics and records that I'll always hold in a special place. What went wrong? Did Rivers suddenly become overly concerned in writing perfect pop songs and ignored the sincerity and instinct that made those records so good? Or was Matt Sharp really that awesome? Either or, Return of the Rentals is really good. I should take this album out more often. It seems next month the Rentals are putting out a new EP, their first release since 1999's Seven More Minutes. Apparently it will feature 4 new songs as well as a re-recorded version of the fantastic closer on Return of the Rentals, "Sweetness and Tenderness. "Opportune!

The Rentals - My Summer Girl

"My summer girl
She was my world
He's got her now
Charmed her some how

I know I'm not your type
I know I'm not your type
I know I'm not your type
I'll never be your type

All summer long
Feelings grew strong
All through the time
I was not blind

My summer girl
My summer girl
My summer girl
My summer girl

I'll never be your type
I'll never be your type..."

The Rentals - Return of the Rentals @ Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Yo La Tengo - The Summer

Unlike yesterday's entry, this Yo La Tengo song is a one for the season. "The Summer" would be perfect hammock music, if you go for that sort of thing. I once owned a hammock... it was one of those cheap $20 ones that you're supposed to take down after each use. That got tedious really fast. They also don't tell you how much of a bitch it is to find two perfectly spaced trees, at least in a convenient spot. Sure, you can find the trees, but you just may be out in your neighbor's backward, hovering above a bed of boulders. I guess that's why people splurge on decent weather-resistant hammocks with come with their own self-sufficient stands. Cheap hammocks: not worth it.

"The Summer" comes from Yo La Tengo's first great album, Fakebook as well as their 3-disc best-of compilation Prisoners of Love. It's a lovely one. I personally find those last few days when the Summer is winding down ("coming undone") to be some of my favorite moments.

Yo La Tengo - The Summer

"On darkened streets tonight
I see a simple time
I see the warning light
When the summer comes undone

No sorry closing eyes
No cutting down to size
No other thoughts arise
When the summer comes undone

On darkened streets tonight
I make a wrong turn right
Take in the lonely sight
When the summer comes undone

And I won't wait
And I won't have to
I just waste my time alone

'til the summer comes undone
'til the summer comes undone
'til the summer comes undone"

"The Summer" music video

Yo La Tengo - Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs 1985-2003 @Amazon.com

Monday, July 16, 2007

Múm - Will the Summer Make Good for all of Our Sins?

I think I have just enough "summer songs" left to squeeze out another week. Some of these songs involved summer activities, summer mindsets, summer memories, and summer love (often fleeting.).Others gave no indication of what season it was, but purely sounded like summer: bright, bouncy, and undeniably fun. Others just had Summer in the title. Today's entry is one for that last category.

If you're looking for a song to throw on a mix for the drive down to the beach, this isn't it. This song is more suitable soundtrack for stabbing yourself through the heart with an icicle. The song is atmospheric, cold, despairing and kind of creepy. It's the type of song you can feel throughout your entire body when listening. Really affecting stuff. Not surprisingly, Múm are from Iceland, land of beautiful scenery, incredible music and very attractive people.

Múm - Will the Summer Make Good for all of Our Sins

"please don't cry for hammer in your teeth
we'll spoil the pretty snow that lies beneath
who go cry for hammer in her teeth
we'll spoil her pretty face at least she feels real
no-go cry for hammer in your teeth
we'll spoil the pretty snow that never feels real

breathe, you breathe
believe you me tonight
breath in, breath out
make good, make float
bleed you me

please don't cry for hammer in your teeth
we'll spoil the pretty snow that lies beneath
and summer will make good for all of our sins
if we only wish it hard enough

breathe in, breathe out
who go who cry
believe you me
to night/mum night
breathe in, breathe out
make good, make float
bleed you me"

Now, when the song is combined with the video, it's bumped up to an even higher league. This is one of those incredibly rare cases where a directly perfectly captures the essence of a song and you just think, wow, how could that have been any better? For ease I'll put the youtube link below, however with the compression and size I feel that you lost a little of the effect when viewed there. I'm also linking to a much superior 40 meg .mov version, which is optimum. Watch that one.


Mum - Summer Make Good @Amazon.com

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pavement - Summer Babe

Where does one start with Pavement? They're one of my top 5 favorite bands, but I still have yet to an entry about them. If you haven't heard them, stop whatever you're doing and listen to their debut album Slanted & Enchanted. It's quintessential 90's lo-fi indie rock. Time magazine even included that album in their Top 100 Albums Ever list. Yes... TIME. Anyway you cut it it's one of the greatest albums of the 90's. Over a hundred entries in and the reason why I have yet to bring up this band is that it would have been kind of redundant to do so. The main thing I'm going for this this blog is to expose underrated and overlooked bands of the past. I feel like there's more than enough places to hear new bands, but what's the point of that when there's so much out there that majority of the world hasn't heard. Besides... a lot of new music sucks. If you're just going to regurgitate what bands accomplished 10, 20 years earlier, then what's the point? I'd rather listen to the original recipe thank you very much.

Now, Pavement- one of the most critically acclaimed and well-respected bands of the 90's. Why am I bringing them up here? For one, it's easy to overestimate the influence of a band. Pavement are a minor Beatles in my life, but in the scope of things how apparent is their mark? Their highest appearance on the U.S. Pop Charts was #70 with Brighten the Corners (though in the U.K. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Wowee Zowee, and Terror Twilight all made it into the Top 20) and their only charting single in the U.S. was "Cut Your Hair," hitting #10 on the Modern Rock Charts. Not a very direct mark. However they're basically the 90's equivalent of the Velvet Underground theory. They didn't tear up the charts, but those who heard them played in bands who then were influenced by their sound, other bands were influenced by the sound of the originally influenced, and etc. It all trickles down to 2007 where every guitar led indie-rock band has a trace of Pavement in them somewhere. So in short to why Pavement comes up today, while incredibly important, your Dad probably hasn't heard of them. Sigh...it's just a great way to end the week with my seemingly endless "Summer Songs" spree.

Now enjoy a classic that even the asshats at Rolling Stone thought was the 286th greatest song of all time. ("Like a Rolling Stone" was #1, followed by "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. You can't make that up.)

Pavement - Summer Babe [Winter Version]

"Ice baby,
I saw your girlfriend and she was
eating her fingers like they're just another meal
but she waits there
in the levee washes
mixin' cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar

My eyes stick to all the shiny roses
you wear on the protein delta strip
in an abandoned house but i will wait there
I'll be waiting forever...
I'll wait and wait and wait...

Minerals, ice deposits daily, dropped off
the first shiny robe
I've got a lot of things i want to sell, but
not here, babe-- tortuuurreeee...

Every time I sit around I find I'm shot
Every time I sit around I find I'm shot
Every time I turn around I find I'm shot
Every time I sit around I find I'm shot
Every time every time...
You're my... summer babe
summer babe"

Summer Babe (Live)

Pavement @Matador Records

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beat Happening - Indian Summer

Alright, alright- this entry is going to be a re-hash. I've already done an "Indian Summer" post back in February, in retrospect a very unsuitable month for this song. Then again, this point in time isn't particularly suitable either. An Indian summer is technically in Autumn: the last days of warm weather and sun before Winter comes its way. This period was also when Native Americans would harvest their crops, hence the name.

Like I mentioned in the last entry, the song's simple, only 2 chords, but man is it fantastic. Easily one of Beat Happening's best, if not the best. Thematically it's pretty simple as well. It recounts the tradition of two summer lovers: meeting up again during Indian Summer for a picnic in a ceremony. One time it rained, but that doesn't matter to them. They're together, and nothing will change that.

Beat Happening - Indian Summer

"Breakfast in cemetery
Boy tastin wild cherry
Touch girl, apple blossom
Just a boy playin possum

We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
And go our separate ways

What is that cheerful sound?
Rain fallin on the ground
We'll wear a jolly crown
Buckle up, we're wayward bound

We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
And go our separate ways

Motorbike to cemetery
Picnic on wild berries
French toast with molasses
Croquet and Baked Alaskas

We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
We'll come back for Indian Summer
And go our separate ways

Cover me with rain
Walk me down the lane
I'll drink from your drain
We will never change
No matter what they say"

To further rehash my previous entry, here's Luna's cover. This time however it's a video! According to Dean Wareham, lead singer of Luna and Galaxie 500, "Indian Summer is indie rock's Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

Beat Happening - Jamboree @K Records

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bright Eyes - June on the West Coast

For a little while during my Sophomore year of High School, this Bright Eyes song practically was my life. When you're a teenager, struggling to find your identity and dealing with a barrage of oscillating emotions, there's few better soundtracks to your life than Bright Eyes' early records (the Violent Femmes self-titled album is one of those few, but that's besides the point.) Part of what makes Bright Eyes such a relatable band, was that he wasn't much older than listens upon recording the songs. He succeeded so well in capturing the turmoil of teenage life because he still was one, albeit a much more gifted songwriter and lyricist than most others his age. Upon recording Letting off the Happiness, he was only 17.

Nowadays, almost five years later, I still love Bright Eyes, though I tend to stick with his more recent, less melodramatic/angsty material. While I found his newest record Cassadaga to be a bit inconsistent, I adore Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground and consider I'm Wide Awake It's Morning to be a mini-masterpiece. Just don't ask for my opinion on Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. "June on the West Coast" however still moves me immensely. Yeah- I just played it. It's wonderful.

Bright Eyes - June on the West Coast

"I spent a week drinking the sunlight of Winnetka, California
Where they understand the weight of human hearts
You see, sorrow gets too heavy and joy it tends to hold you
With the fear that it eventually departs
And the truth is I’ve been dreaming of some tired tranquil place
Where the weather won’t get trapped inside my bones
And if all the years of searching find one sympathetic face
Then it's there I will plant these seeds and make my home

I spent a day dreaming of dying in Mesa, Arizona
Where all the green of life had turned to ash
And I felt I was on fire, with the things I could have told you
I guess I just assumed that you eventually would ask
And I wouldn’t have to bring up my so badly broken heart
And all those months I just wanted to sleep
And though spring, it did come slowly, I guess it did it's part
My heart has thawed and continues to beat

I visited my brother on the outskirts of Olympia
Where the forest and the water become one
And we talked about our childhood, like a dream we were convinced of
That perfect peaceful street where we came from
And I know he heard me strumming all those sad and simple chords
As I sat inside my room so long ago
And it hurts that he’s still shaking from those secrets that were told
By a car closed up airtight and a heart turned cold

And I went to San Diego, the birthplace of the summer
And watched the ocean dance under the moon
And there was a girl I knew there, one more potential lover
I guess that something’s got to happen soon
Because I know I can’t keep living in this dead or dying dream
And as I watched along the beach and drank with her
I thought about my true love, the one I really need
With eyes that burn so bright, they make me pure

They make me pure
They make me pure
I long to be with you"

Here's a funny little video of a heavily sauced Oberst giving an introduction to the song, explaining it's one of the few early songs of his he still likes as well as beginning to teach the audience how to play it on guitar-

Second we have a version of the song from a recent radio session that also featured M. Ward. The arrangement is so different that it's practically a different song.

Bright Eyes @ Saddle Creek Records

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Camper Van Beethoven - June

Camper Van Beethoven- a band a know little about at the moment, yet I'm looking forward to getting to know in the future. They're one of those bands whose name you hear pop up every one in a while (especially when a reviewer is seeming to look for hipster points by comparing a band's sound to one decades earlier) but you don't hear them being talked about extensively. My introduction to them was a little strange, finding an odd cassette of their album Key Lime Pie at a thrift store for $0.50. It's not the street version, nor a promo copy. I sent an email about it to CVB's manager but have yet to receive a response. All I can tell is it's the property of Virgin Records. I still need to listen to it in its entirety. College rock with a violin and mandolin. Sounds cool enough. Continuing with Summer songs, here's "June."

Camper Van Beethoven - June

"Are you weary of the lengthening days?
Do you secretly wish for November's rain?
And the harvest moon to reign in the sky (now that it's June)
There is nothing in this world more bitter than Spring

Now I wrote you this letter
Because the clothes were hung on the line
And the crows flew out of the field
And up into the sky

I'm lying here in the station
Stretching out on the tracks
For all the possible places that I might arrive

There is nothing in this world more bitter than love
In all those long days of June
Bring me the long, brown grass now that it's dry
There is nothing in this world more bitter than Spring"

Camper Van Beethoven - Key Lime Pie @Amazon.com

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cat Power - Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down

Last night I caught Cat Power in Boston. The show took me by surprise, being nothing at all like what I expected. Then again I didn't really know what to expect. I haven't read much about recent Cat Power gigs (since she sobered up) and last I heard about where those shows where she'd stop midway through song, restart multiple times, continuously apologize about her playing, or even just give up and drop the song all together. There's so many Chan Marshall concert stories that there could be a book, perhaps a multi volume encyclopedia. Last year a stereogum entry prompted its readers to post their Cat Power stories. Here's three aburd and maybe a little frightening snippets:

"There was a serious lack of finished songs. Lots of "get me a drink" and after an amazingly beautiful 3/4th of "Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground" she stops and yells
"Man, I want to fuck Jack White SOOO badly"She proceeded to talk about Jack White 6 or 7 more times, played six more half songs and stopped and started eating pizza on the side of the stage"

"Saw her play in London when "The Covers Record" came out. It was a quiet, all-seated venue, so when someone got up to go to the bathroom it was pretty obvious. About halfway through she stopped mid-song and said, in a hugely petulant manner, "Why does everyone keep leaving?" ('everyone' meaning the 5 or 6 people who had got up so far and then returned about 5 minutes.) After a bemused silence, someone said "Er...they're going to the bathroom." "WELL, WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THAT?" she yelled, as if everyone should stop her mid-song and ask for permission before going for a leak."

"She said that, had she still been drinking, this show would probably prompt her to commit suicide. She wished for a “psychedelic sound button” on her piano and across the elementary classrooms of America. She talked of having her period, picking her crack, butt-crack, and “all her cracks”. She talked about getting sober and the vices picked up from becoming straight, all the while ashing her cigarette into her shirt pocket."

That you see, was the past. This show was incredibly professional and exquisitely performed. Even though the setlist was rather alienating to some, and light on material that was actually hers, it was no less engrossing. It consisted of about 5 songs from The Greatest (but sadly no "Lived in Bars"), "Naked I Wanted To" and "( I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," both in different arrangements than on The Covers Record, and the rest being new covers for her upcoming Covers Record II, tentatively titled Sun. As they feature her new Dirty Delta Blues backup band, and are surprisingly varied in degree of instrumentation. A problem I had with her first covers record was the sparseness of it all. While a slow acoustic guitar/piano and vocals song can be great in moderation, when they constitute multiple consecutive songs, it can get a little boring. While there's a few gems on that album, in my opinion the middle section is a little too repetitive. When the tempo finally speeds up with "Salty Dog," it's already the end of the record. I'm digressing though. So these new covers Chan is playing are fantastic, and I'm highly looking forward to Sun, apparently coming out late this year.

After the show I hung outside the venue for about 45 minutes to an hour, waiting for Chan to come out. There was a group of about six others there. Gregg Foreman, the piano player for this tour came outside and talked to us all for a good 20 minutes. Real nice guy. However I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Chan's final emergence. It was all very strange initially, as she came out with two slices of pizza in her hand, walking over to us, asking if anyone wants a slice. She gave that crowd a quick word, literally less than 10 seconds. From the opposite direction I approached her, What Would the Community Think vinyl in hand with a silver sharpie uncapped in the opposite. She turned down my request for an autograph, saying "she's couldn't give them to everyone else." I stopped in my tracks for a moment, a bit baffled and she continued onwards. Why is she in such a hurry? The show the next day was in the same state, a mere 45 minutes away. Staying put for the moment I uttered, "a quick picture?" to which she responded in a dainty tone "One day!" At this moment I was maybe a little over 10 feet away from her. She was already at the tour bus door. At this exact moment something in me either engaged or popped, possibly both. I entered a strange state that couldn't be described as reality but it wasn't quite a dream. Come to think of it, you could call it fanboy desperation. "Come on, take a picture!" I was being sided with by my fellow fans. Why not go along with it? I outstretched my fingers, pressing my hands firmly together with a slight overlap and reached them out towards Chan as if she was the second coming. I pleaded "Pleeeaaseeee" emphasizing it with the obligatory sad-puppy look, my head slightly bobbed downwards but my eyes, especially big and gaping, looking to her. In desperation it seems we return to our most infantile impulses. She stopped dead in her tracks. Did I trigger her ironic dog-loving impulse? She did have a cute little dog with her. She gave a look then at could either be secession, realization, surprise or annoyance. I wish I could pinpoint which. In any case what happened in the next 10 seconds was a complete blur, but as I now recall intermittently I said something like "it'll be like...2 seconds," that rather than putting my arm around her which may have been awkward given the circumstances already I opted for a casual hand faintly touching her shoulder, I saw a flash, and I said "thanksireallyappreciateittheshowwasfanastic" on a dime like you could have just pulled a string. I forget if she said anything back. I think she may have smiled and said thanks. I was happy, though it wasn't as opportune as I had hoped/ played out in my head. I'm not going to turn this into a Chan was a bitch, post either, far from it, and to clarify none of this has been in that spirit, something that I don't think at all. She could have had a perfectly good reason for her rush. But if not, come on Chan. Give us a little time.

Well... I'd say it's about time for an mp3. Let's do "Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down." It's a pretty rare song, originally the b-side for the "Nude as the News" single7". It's almost impossible to find this song commercially anymore. It's a bit of a mash-up cover, combining Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" and "Weighted Down" by Skip Spence. I'm not familiar with Skip Spence, but I just did a little research and the connection between the two would be that Skip suffered from Schizophrenia. He was the original drummer for Jefferson Airplace as well as Moby Grape guitarist. From wikipedia:

"During the 1968 recording of the group's second album, Wow, Spence allegedly attempted to break down a bandmate's hotel room door with a fire axe while on LSD, and was committed for six months to the criminal ward at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Upon his release, he recorded his only solo album, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar. However, mental illness and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a career in the music industry, and he lived much of his later life as a homeless person in Santa Cruz, California. When it finally seemed that he might have been overcoming those afflictions, lung cancer claimed him."

Jesus that's rough. I thought Daniel Johnston's story was bad...

Cat Power - Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down

"Weighted down by possessions
Weighted down by the gun
Waited down by the river for you to come

And who socks were you darning, poor darling
While I was away, away too long
I went away to see an old friend of mine
Sister came over and knew she was out of her mind
She says "Jesus has a twin who don't know nothing about sin"
She was half crazy and out of her mind

Weighted down by possessions
Weighted down with a gun
Waiting down by the river for you to come

Her light eyes were dancing she is insane
Her brother says she's just a bitch on a golden chain
She keeps coming closer saying
"I can feel it in my bones, schizophrenia is taking me home"

Weighted down by possessions
I'm weighted down with my gun
I'm waiting down by the river for you to come".

More photos from the show

Cat Power @ Matador Records

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Decemberists - July! July!

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy the Decemberists. This is one of those times. I've gone months without listening to them, which is strange since back in March after seeing them live I was on a real Decemberists kick. I got to talk to Colin Meloy and Chris Funk briefly after the show- both were incredibly nice and actually interested in having a word with fans.

In terms of my favorite record of theirs, I'd have to go with Picaresque, their breakthrough album, however their last record The Crane Wife was fantastic and a great example a band of losing nothing creatively upon signing to a major label. I can't quite say the same for Death Cab for Cutie, who are friends and occasional producers (Chris Walla) of the band. This entry's song comes from neither of those albums and rather their excellent 2002 debut Castaways and Cutouts. It features the Decemberists trademark lyrical storytelling, this time revolving around an alleyways, or according to our narrator "a road that meets the road that goes to my house." He spouts off several tales (perhaps lit match proto-Are You Afraid of the Dark? style) that may or may not have occurred there in the past, from the murder of a gin smuggling French-Canadian, to a sexual conquest, to even and undisclosed event that led to a haunting by ghosts of dead chickens.

With especially that last aspect in mind, it's beneficial to all that Colin has commented on the song's meaning during an interview. He first clarifies that the house in the song was indeed real, based on an abandoned slaughterhouse in Portland where for a time was his summer crash pad.

"It was actually a slaughterhouse beforehand, and on the third floor there were troughs along the side... down the hallways where the blood would run. And then the troughs would actually lead to the outside, where it would pour off the side of the building, I swear to God.
So we assume that the house -- that the building was haunted by dead chickens ..."

Well...perhaps this is the catchiest song ever written about dead chicken ghosts. I'm posting here two versions of the song, the first the album version and the latter an in-studio live take performed earlier this year.

The Decemberists - July! July!

The Decemberists - July! July! (Live in-studio)

"There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house
And how the green grows there
And we've got special boots to beat the path to my house
And it's careful, and it's careful when I'm there

And I say your uncle was a crooked French Canadian
And he was gut-shot running gin
And how his guts were all suspended in his fingers
And how he held 'em, how he held 'em, held 'em in

Atnd the water rolls down the drain
The water rolls down the drain
Oh, what a lonely thing
In a lonely drain

July, July, July
It never seemed so strange

This is the story of the road that goes to my house
And what ghosts there do remain
And all the troughs that run the length and breadth of my house
And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains

And we'll remember this when we are old and ancient
Though the specifics might be vague
And I'll say, "Your camisole was a sprightly light magenta"
When, in fact, it was a nappy bluish grey

And the water rolls down the drain
The blood rolls down the drain
Oh, what a lonely thing
In a blood red drain

July, July, July
It never seemed so strange"

July! July! Live at Coachella

The Decemberists - Castaways & Cutouts @Kill Rock Stars

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Animal Collective - Fireworks

Rain on the Fourth of July... what an inopportune time. As far as I'm aware most of the fireworks in my area were canceled. Instead I watched some of the Macy's Fireworks in New York City on NBC HD. It was pretty impressive though the presentation to say the least was a little obnoxious. Do we really need quick cut editing for fireworks? Plus they scored it with so many Yay-America songs from "Yankee Doodle", to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" that the patriotic schmaltz was practically oozing from the screen. Fireworks don't need any cream and sugar.

I will however make a compromise for Fireworks + Animal Collective. "Fireworks" is the first single from their upcoming album Strawberry Jam, due this September. It's a great track- somehow more accessible than their previous material, but without compromising any artistic integrity.

Animal Collective - Fireworks

Its video is kinda like what would happen if you fell asleep while listening to the song on the Fourth of July and proceeded to have a lucid dream.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Galaxie 500 - Fourth of July

First off, Happy Fourth of July everyone. Over the weekend in NY I picked up about $35 worth of fireworks, so mine will certainly be decent. It's strange though, as I thought New York was one of the 5 states (also including Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, my own state) where the sale and use of fireworks is illegal. In hindsight, it was a bit of a shady establishment, just a tent set up by a gas station out in the mountainous country part of the state. I didn't even need to sign any paperwork.

This Galaxie 500 song, possibly my favorite track by the band (and that's saying a lot) takes the holiday and rather than reiterating the celebratory nature of the holiday, with gatherings, explosions, and barbecue, juxtaposes it through the perspective of an isolated and insecure, possibly schizophrenic individual, closing the shades so they wouldn't be reminded of the joy that the outside world is experiencing. Through depressed, it's not hopeless, as things are momentarily alright for the protagonist when a special someone smiles. Maybe they're not going mad and rather it's just a case of love sickness. They realize they could just change their style and move on, explore a different persona and meet new people, but they're still stuck on that one that gives them a fleeting happiness, regardless and stubborn to the cancerous baggage that comes with it.

However, that's just my interpretation, and whatever Dean was going for when he wrote the song certainly worked. This is an incredible piece of music from the spoken word opening lines (I love the first two especially) to the extended instrumental ending. I'm in absolute awe upon every listen.

Galaxie 500 - Fourth of July

"I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit
And your dog refused to look at it
So I got drunk and looked at the Empire State Building
It was no bigger than a nickel

And if it don't improve
Then I have to move
I never thought that I would end up here
Maybe I should just change my style
But I feel alright when you smile

I stayed at home on the Fourth of July
And I pulled the shades so I didn't have to see the sky
And I decided to have a Bed In
But I forgot to invite anybody

And when I fell asleep
The neighbors had a peep
I never thought that I would end up here
Maybe I should just change my style
But I feel alright when you smile"

The music video is brilliant as well- one of the best uses of a practically nonexistent budget I can think of. I love this band so much. Hopefully we'll see a reunion one day.

Galaxie 500 - This is Our Music @Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Love - Bummer in the Summer

As I begin this entry rather than faking my way through an informative history of this band, I'm just going to say that my knowledge about Love is minimal at best. It should be more I'm well aware, and undoubtedly it will be in the future. But at this point in time, I'm a complete Love noob. You could say my Love-life is inexperienced.

What I do know about them is that they were a late 60's psychedelic band, their song "Alone Again Or" was in the Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket, and their album Forever Changes is not only considered to be one of the greatest albums of the 1960's but by some one of the greatest albums of all time.

Where do I stand? I've heard Forever Changes twice. I'm at that stage where I really like what I'm hearing and can tell it's good, but the album still has yet to reach out and grab me in ways beyond my eardrum. Future Matt might be looking back at this, slowly shaking his head. Do I have brilliance in store for me one day? Until then, enjoy this Love song that has summer in the title.

Love - Bummer in the Summer

"Well I remember when you used to look so good
And I did everything that I possibly could for you
We used to ride around all over town
But they're puttin' you down for bein' around with me
But you can go ahead if you want to
'Cause I ain't got no papers on you

In the middle of the summer I had a job bein' a plumber
Just to pass till the fall it was you I wanna ball all day
Ah-we were walkin' along, honey, hand in hand
I'm a-thinkin' of you, mama, when you're thinkin' of another man
But you can go ahead if you want to
'Cause I ain't got no papers on you
(No, I don't I ain't got no papers on myself)

All alone on the bone when I didn't have a home
When I saw the way I was and I knew where I was supposed to be
I was twitchin' so I turned and it's really hard to learn
That everyone I saw was just another part of me
But you can go ahead if you want to
'Cause nobody's got no papers on you
(No, babe, it's just a falsehood)

Arthur Lee - Bummer in the Summer (Live 2004)

Love - Forever Changes @Amazon