Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quick album reviews

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Greatest Hits (MCA, 1993)
Synths on "You Got Lucky?" Sitar on "Don't Come Around Here No More?" Videos and videos? How did such a meat and potatas rock-n-roller (not rocker) get away with such stuff? Ah but who cares about the arbitrary mores and ideals of his audience? He's a damn fine pastiche primarily because he doesn't feel like a pastiche. Also because almost every track here (and I truly am interested in searching elsewhere - "About To Give Out" tucked away on that last one was a terrific punk-burner) is absurdly hummable. Always my fave: the Byrdsy swirly "The Waiting." The chorus is awkward, of course: it should sing: "You take it on faith/You take it to heart." But you just gotta love how Petty sacrifices lyrical smoothness for rebop by adding a funky "the" in front of heart.

Pernice Brothers: Yours, Mine & Ours (Ashmont, 2003)
Poppy (but who isn't). Pretty (good). Short (even better). Light (best of all). But of course that leads to the what's the point question. Haven't sat down with the lyrics yet but I doubt they'll teach me anything the Hollies taught me to ignore ages ago. Wasn't Yours, Mine & Ours a Lucille Ball movie about a family with a bunch of kids? Wish I was sure Joe Pernice had the answer.

Kings of Leon: Holy Roller Novocaine EP (RCA, 2003)
The roots rock Strokes. Haven't heard the full-length yet. I'm sure it's fine but it's not pushing my ineffable buttons the way the Strokes do. Maybe it's not disco enough. But maybe boogie madness isn't their strong point - the chorus to "California Waiting" pokes out like nothing on the Strokes disc. So then what IS their strong point? Am I supposed to read Blue Cheer or Mudhoney into the very Blue Cheer-like title? Sure hope not. Or is my failure to immediately get with this reflective of a class bias? The upward mobility built into the Strokes' upsurges and committed forward motion might be a kind of upper middle class lingua franca in ceratin parts of America. Kings of Leon's musical tropes are nothing of the sort even though the bros themsevles might be bourgie bourgie. The Strokes share a bit of the distanced, effected snobbery of, well, all I can think of is The Thompson Twins' great but somewhat jokey cover of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" None of that is here. Still listening.

Party Monster (TVT, 2003)
The soundtrack to the film I'm most dying to see at this very moment (well, in terms of readily seeable films). I dig the soundtrack but it makes me itchy and not necessarily in a good way. Stacey Q's "Two of Hearts" blends it frighteningly well with all the posed-out electroclash and temper tantrum house music.

Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis - Deluxe Edition (Rhino, 1969/1999)
Does anyone hate this record? Simon Reynolds? Kodwo Eshun? I just want to mention that my fave track happens to be Dusty's too: "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore." And yeesh - is it really only 25 minutes long? Should we fault the album for this? I'm obviously leaning towards no but I suppose it makes it less immortal for some. Anyhoo, I finally sat and concentrated on the bonus tracks from this Deluxe Edition. The Jeffy Barry tracks are particularly listless. Their failure is not so much a function of bad songs as arrangements that impel Dusty to belt, never her strong suit. And, of course, the Memphis Cats are sorely missed on the bottom. Bad song: "Love Shine Down." The only cut that would make it on a mix tape is "Willie & Laura Mae Jones."

Quarterflash (Geffen, 1981)
What a great album! I listened to it three times today. But if I can't convince anyone I know of Steely Dan's genius, how am I gunna do it for this lesser tribute band ("Williams Avenue" is sooooo "Peg")? And the lyrics - sheesh. Fuck and run; fuck and run - is that all anyone on the West Coast ever does? Rindy Ross manages to make couplets like "I didn't have a chance in art school/You offered to help this poor fool" sing - worthy of Morrissey if not Colin Snowsell. Dig the cover - radioactive man repeated in a series. Their next album, Take Another Picture (which I've yet to hear), is a family reunion photo of showroom dummies. Nicely mirrors the perils of serial monogamy in the lyrics. "Valerie" - great unrequited lesbian love song. And yes, this was the first band I ever saw live (opening for Elton John!!).

Dancehall 101: Vol. 1 (VP, 2000)
It sounds great at home since it offers more vertical pleasures than most dancehall (or just plain dance) comps. But tempo is a problem here. Just too freakin' slow for me. Were I on the floor, the only track I'd request is Cutty Ranks' "Limb by Limb" and maybe Red Rat's "Dwayne" (my fave track on the disc) for perversity's sake. "Dwayne" is jaw-dropping, confusing background and foreground with a shifting bassline that doubles for hooks. And his toast or rap or cry or whatever tries to keep up.

New Order: Get Ready (Reprise, 2001)
New Order want it all. Their sound is so heavy and layered that their breaks contain drum-bass-guitar. And yet it never sacrifices beat, catchiness or verse-chorus-verse. Still touched by the hand of god after all these years.

The Funk Box (Hip-O, 2000)
By now, I'm only listening to the tracks I don't know (or don't know that well). I still don't get Pleasure's "Glide" or The Blackbyrds' "Do It, Fluid." But after finally reading the liner notes, I know why. Both are progenitors of acid jazz (now we know whose houses to egg) and rare groove (please - I don't know wanna know). I can also live without The Average White Band's "School Boy Crush" (Eric B and Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" does nicely, thank you). But The Temptations' "Shakey Ground," The Meters' "Just Kissed My Baby," The New Birth's "I Can Understand It," Graham Central Station's "The Jam" and even Marvin Gaye's slice of soundtrack "'T' Plays It Cool" are all growing or fully grown on me. I thought of making a CD of just the tracks I wasn't familiar with to get to know them better (nine or so minutes of Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce" always derails me). But I did that with the Nuggets II box and when I played it again on the drive back to Montréal, I got sad/annoyed: no Creation or John's Children. :( Still, seeing as how I haven't shaken the genius of Sugar and Poison yet, the track that gets me off the most is Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More, Baby." So sexy-angsty as if you were fucking and at the same time thinking about how you're gonna pay all your bills.


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