Thursday, May 31, 2007

ELEVEN SONGS . . . NINE ARTISTS (WHOA)

Here we go with week three of the Delicious Dozen . . . Minus One. The I-Pod is revved up, ready to spit forth a fabulous selection of random I-Tunery from my music collection. So, let's spin the wheel, shall we, and see what shufflectible variety we get:

1. Sleater-Kinney -- "O2" (One Beat):

Their sound really started to change on this album, with very mixed results. I think this song is a great example. I like the shift when they go into the "chorus" here, it seems more Sleater Kinney-ish to me: intertwined vocal lines, minor chord guitar-slinging, an odd rhythm change. But while I like the chiming guitar sound they get in the rest of the song, something seems a bit too bubblegummy for my ears.

2. Ceumar -- "Girias do Norte" (Brasil Acoustico):

Some really good stuff on this compilation album. Lots of excellent samba and other Brazilian music.

Unfortunately, this ain't one of them. Sounds like Carmen Miranda singing "Mambo Italiano."

3. Lee Morgan Quintet -- "The Sidewinder" (Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz . . .):

Sweet. I mentioned last week that I wanted to hear a cut from one of my Lee Morgan albums. Well, this isn't a Lee Morgan album, per se, but it is Lee's most famous song. Morgan's solo music had a real swing that wasn't always present in 60's jazz. His chops were legit, and to my non-expert ears he seemed to do most of the "complicated" things that marked that decade's jazz: jaunty melodies, odd-time meters, some dischordance. But . . . it swings. Really gets your toes tappin'. Makes you smile.

And as with so much art, you'd never expect this, since Morgan seems to have lived a pretty miserable life: a drug addict, a pimp, and shot to death by his girlfriend at the age of 33.

4. Liz Phair -- "Never Said" (Exile in Guyville):

I won't even complain that this is Guyville's second appearence in three weeks. Because it's a great album, and this song rocks. As I mentioned in the comments to George a couple weeks ago, I love the lyrics in this one: "So don't look at me sideways/don't even look me straight on/and don't look at my hands in my pockets, baby/I ain't done anything wrong." She delivers that line.

Of course, one could make the argument that this song's heavy production, layered tracks, and reverb-drenched background vocals foresaw the disaster that would befall Liz' fans in the next decade. One could definitely make that argument.

But I won't make it. I like the song too much.

5. Sonic Youth -- "Mildred Pierce" (Goo):

Goo. Hmmm. I'm sure most Sonic Youth fans have a similar sense of this album. Following the earth-shattering influence of Daydream Nation, the Youth finally got a major-label contract, and Goo was the first effort of that phase of their career. And it was a pretty lame effort, I think. Plus, it began their long, consistent decline from important artists to downtown scenesters, with Kim Gordon progressively more concerned about fashion than music.

But you know what? The album that followed this one, Dirty, was excellent. One of my favorites. Up there with Daydream Nation in my opinion. So what can I really say? Plus, this little musical number ain't bad. And, since it's named after a Joan Crawford movie, it gets extra points for potential camp value.

(Now if only they'd called it "Johnnie Guitar.")

6. Gustav Mahler -- "Movement 4: Tempo 1, Molto adagio (Symphony #9):

Bernstein conducted this one. He loved Mahler's 9th more than anything else if I'm not mistaken. It's a monumental-sounding piece of music, but I'd be lying if I told you I've ever listened to the whole thing.

And since I've been offered no jobs in the Bush administration, assume I don't lie often.

7. REM -- "Little America" (Reckoning):

Not from the tour-de-force early part of this album, this one's nevertheless a good song. Most of the ingredients of early REM: hyper rhythms, chiming 12-string guitar set against muscular-but-understated chords. But it doesn't feature the soaring background harmonies that most of this album's cuts have, and believe it or not you can pretty much understand all of Michael Stipe's vocals.

Which is nice, because they're good ones. Jefferson, I think we're lost, indeed.

8. Velvet Underground -- "Femme Fatale" (Velvet Underground & Nico):

Yes! An injection of magic into my ears. The three Nico songs off this album (Femme Fatale, All Tomorrow's Parties, and I'll Be Your Mirror) sound like no other music ever made. Her voice isn't pretty, Lou Reed's background singing isn't pretty, the instrumentation is strikingly minimalistic, and the lyrical story isn't very nice.

Yet all three songs are unspeakably beautiful. I could listen to this all day.

9. Sonic Youth -- "Eric's Trip" (Daydream Nation):

As requested. Damn, that's pretty cool. This is how Sonic Youth is supposed to sound. And it's also a very appropriate follow-up to the Velvet Underground. It's hard to think of an album that found beauty-in-ugliness more than Daydream Nation. "Eric's Trip" has all the qualities: jarring sounds, oddly-tuned instruments, rough rhythms, yet the package-in-full is pleasant. Daydream Nation was definitely one of those albums where "something special" descended upon them as they recorded it. The muse was in the studio. "Teenage Riot" demonstrates that more than anything else, but this song, and many others, have it too.

10. Sonic Youth -- "100%" (Dirty):

Oh my god!!! Is this possible??? I have four Sonic Youth albums in the I-Pod, a little more than 1% of the total. And this is the the third to appear in a six song stretch (after explicitly talking about two of them).

Anyhow, this isn't a great song -- which is amazing, because Dirty is loaded -- so I guess the I-Pod Gods are still keeping things in balance.

11. Outkast -- "Slum Beautiful" (Stankonia):

I'll admit I rarely listen to this album (read: never listen). I bought it about 4 or 5 years ago because it was so well-regarded. I hadn't even heard "Mrs. Jackson" when I got it. There's nothing wrong with this song, but I can't say I'd listen to it if it didn't come onto a shuffle.

So there you have it, another Random Eleven in the books. As with every week so far, there were plenty of "Holy shit, that's random" moments. But that Sonic Youth thing is freaky. I don't know what to say.

But you can: your thoughts, comments, criticisms, your own random tunes. Bring it on.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous wfta said...

I am too old and insulated for this discussion. I've been on a steady diet of Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell for the past thirty years.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

I heart Liz Phair. And for the most part, I like how her career's progressed, though the last CD was a bit of a disappointment -- almost all ballads. So don't go dissing Liz.

10:16 AM  
Blogger maurinsky said...

RE: Velvet Underground & Nico - I love your description, because it is totally right. If you take it apart, it isn't anything, but together, it's perfect.

10:17 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Daydream Nation, Goo, and Dirty are all excellent albums. For me, it's the pinnacle of their career. While I don't have all of their albums, the stuff that I do have from before (Confusion Is Sex and Kill Yr Idols) and after (Experimental Jet Set.... and Sonic Nurse) just don't measure up to the quality of these three.

I hear that Washing Machine was good but I don't know of anyone who's heard it.

I agree with you regarding Gordon's obsession with fashion at that point in their career.

1:14 PM  
Blogger George said...

that Sonic Youth thing is freaky

True in so many ways.

And if you want to bring the old "everything is connected" line from your Friday silly movie entries into your 11 music entries, note that your VU selection is famously covered by REM.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

Nice list. My responses will be unproofed, so please forgive the typos and bad grammar.

1. Sleater-Kinney -- "O2" (One Beat):

I'm hoping you'll steer me to the appropriate "gateway" Sleater-Kinney as they're a band I've been meaning to check out.


5. Sonic Youth

I bought "Daydream Nation" last year (19 years late, but who's counting). Just recently I saw that Pitchfork rated it the best album of the '80s (for those curious, Bowie's "Low" topped their '70s list and Radiohead's "OK, Computer" the '90s). So, I was going to comment that "I am completely not getting it -- this is noise." But I listened again -- "looked before I leapt" -- and hey, what do you know, much better. Still not close to loving it, though.

As for "Goo," sometimes it's the more accesssible albums that gets someone to check out a band's back-catalogue. That's how it worked with me and R.E.M.: I seriously doubt that I'd have gotten into their "Chronictown"-through-"Reckoning" period if it weren't for Document/Green.

So saying, "Goo's" "Kool Thing" if I'd been paying attention might have gotten me into Sonic Youth before anything on "Daydream Nation."

7. REM -- "Little America" (Reckoning):

As I mentioned above, I consider "Reckoning" to be the last of R.E.M.'s "early stage" efforts. I have the most affection for this stage, though I think Stage Two -- "Fables" through "Green" -- is almost as good. Stage Three -- with the move to sappy, synth-filled songs, has been a disappointment to say the least(with some notable exceptions -- the classic "Automatic for the People" and the solid-but-ignored "New Adventures In Hi Fi").

8. Velvet Underground -- "Femme Fatale" (Velvet Underground & Nico):

You've convinced me about the three songs but I still think enjoy "Loaded" more. "The Velevet Underground & Nico" is the critic's darling and tops all sorts of charts, while "Loaded" gets respect as a "solid" Rock 'n Roll record. My opinion on this is that it has largely to do with the fact that this album is the musical representation of the mid-60s, NY Andy Warhol Factory scene. The seedy songs, Nico's participation, the clothes, the hang-outs, venues, etc. -- it's an entire package. By the time "Loaded" came out, many of these things were absent and the songs are more "commercial."

I am NOT saying that this is YOUR thinking, by the way.

11. Outkast -- "Slum Beautiful" (Stankonia):

Yeah, I'm intrigued by this record simply because it is so well-regarded.

4:51 PM  
Blogger peb said...

I wrote this up tonight for Otto's FRT only to notice he's not doing that anymore. So I decided to not let it go to waste and post it here.

1. Nirvana, “Verse Chorus Verse” – I think this was off an AIDS benefit compilation back in the early ‘90’s called No Alternative. For some reason, it's called "Laundry Room" on that. Pretty solid Nirvana track, but nothing too special. 7/10

2. Polvo, “Lazy Comet” – In college, we used to listen to this album, Today’s Active Lifestyles, all the damn time. And I mean ALL the damn time. A lot of our friends were sick of us playing it and we ruined the good name of Polvo for them for the rest of their lives. Their loss. 8/10

3. Sonic Youth, “White Cross” – This is off Sister which I couldn't tell if you had, Mike. But it is an awesome album and it may be my favorite Sonic Youth album, although I haven’t listened to some of their earliest ones. I do have to admit that I am actually pretty fond of Goo even though it was their "sellout" album. I would think that album is up for some critical revision. 8/10

4. Spiritualized, “Broken Heart” – I’m not into Spiritualized as I am into Jason Pierce’s previous band Spacemen 3. Spiritualized is a little bit too mannered compared to Spacemen 3 so it doesn’t hold up as well to me. 6/10

5. Neil Young, “Cowgirl In The Sand” – Awesome. Classic Neil. 10 minutes of loud sloppy guitar. He doesn’t have too many songs better than this one. 10/10

6. Metal Flake Mother, “Scratchin’” – Metal Flake Mother was a local Chapel Hill band that eventually evolved into the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Unfortunately, I think Metal Flake Mother was the better band as evidenced by this excellent song. I never got into that swing revival thing. 9/10

7. Hüsker Dü, “Terms of Psychic Warfare” – A sped-up live version of the song off the New Day Rising album. It loses a little bit of the charm of the original version, but it’s still Hüsker Dü live. Come on! 8/10

8. Guided By Voices, “Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy” – Off the excellent Propeller album, this is an up-tempo rocker by GBV which, as you would expect, is excellent. 9/10

9. The Rolling Stones, “Ruby Tuesday” – Although this is a Stones’ classic, it’s not my favorite classic. It sounds like a song Mick Jagger wrote to get into Marianne Faithful’s pants. Not that I blame him. 7/10

10. The Beatles, “Something” – Frank Sinatra once said this was the best love song Lennon and McCartney ever wrote which proves his cluelessness about rock music because George Harrison wrote this one. But it is a great song. He was absolutely right about that. 9/10

And one more for the Friday Random Eleven...

11. The Minutemen, "Three Car Jam" - This is 38 seconds of car engine noises. Maybe I should have just stuck with ten. 1/10

Despite the ending dud, I still ended up with a respectable 7.45 average. Thanks for providing me a forum to share.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

WFTA - Velvet Underground is 40 years old!

John - I'll admit I like Whitechocolatespaceegg a lot. But otherwise, I just don't see that her career's gone anywhere but straight into the shitter over the course of 15 years. I know there are good songs on all the albums, but som much of that Matrix-produced crap on her fourth album left such a bad taste in my mouth.

Maurinsky - Thanks.

Ded - I'll defer to you re the pre-Sister stuff, since I don't know it at all.

Peb - (Glad to see I can spell OM in the eyes of his fans. Come by every Thursday with your list). I think Sister is good, and I know lots of folks who think it's SY's best. I like "Schitzophrenia" but for some reason the whole disc never really got me like Daydream Nation.
Don't know why.

"Something" has one of the greatest bridges in music history. As Alex would say about Ludvig Van, "Gorgeousness & georgeosity."

George - "everything is connected".

Well, of course.

Apple - Good call re the "gateway" album. For Sleater-Kinney, I'd have to go with All Hands on the Bad One. You can add it to the list of borrowings (I feel as if you may walk out that day with my entire collection.)

5:43 AM  
Blogger George said...

I seocnd Mike's rec about All Hands on the Bad One--shows Sleater-Kinney's range and I think the ballad "Leave You Behind" is one of the best things they ever recorded (really).

12:40 PM  
Blogger sideshow bob said...

All Hands On the Bad One is very good...I would also suggest Dig Me Out.

I'd then suggest you get through the catalog as fast as you can and get to The Woods, which you will either love or hate.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Leave You Behind" is one of the best things they ever recorded (really)

I like that song a lot. Though my favorites on that album are definitely "Ballad of a Ladyman," "Milkshake & Honey" & "Youth Decay."

The Woods

Never got around to that one, but I've read about it. Applesaucer was a serious Zep fan back in the day, so maybe he'd like that one.

8:25 AM  

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