Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's New?: 6.2.2011

Love Tractor — Love Tractor (1982)

An instrumental jangle album! Has anyone ever gotten to the point where you feel you've reached absolute music nerd terminal velocity and you just don't think you can progress any further? I've kind of felt that way over the past year. I'm not a shredder when I play guitar. I like Robert Smith. I like Peter Buck. I like John Martyn. I like sparsely difficult guitar playing. I like saying more with less. Where has Love Tractor been all along? I watched Athens, GA: Inside Out while I was home sick last week (with a fucking inner ear infection, if you can fathom that extra helping of ultra irony) and I was intrigued at how nonchalantly the band just tossed out that they —initially— didn't feel like they needed vocals. Fucking A, man. Is the album any good? Hell yes it is. Very much reminds me of 83/84 era Durutti Column where Vini was just unsure of whether or not he wanted to sing and, every once in a while, would bang these unbelievable instrumental songs that somehow managed to be simultaneously floaty and catchy. So, yeah. This first Love Tractor album is totally reminiscent of some of my favorite Durutti Column material. Maybe in a bit more of an angular way though.

Love Tractor — 'Til the Cows Come Home EP (1984)

This thing starts off with one of the most amazing 80's pop songs I can't believe I've gone this long without hearing before. Perfectly understated keyboard accents, humble vocals and a heavily effected 12-string make for a downright lost classic. Holy moly, I love it. It even has 80's sax, ferchrissakes! More instrumental floaty jangle songs, a genuine (although failed) attempt at a funk song ('Greedy Dog') and a revised song from the first album (with an actual fresh take on the tune) performed live and the whole thing is over. Overall, the sort of stuff that 80's indie jangle guitar nostalgia is built upon. Not perfect by any means, but the sort of thing I continue to scour used bins for.

Love Tractor — This Ain't No Outer Space Ship (1986)

By this point (their third album), the Tractor had fully integrated vocals into their sound. It's ok. They still have a great dual jangly guitar sound, but they seem to be writing intentionally poppier material — and that just doesn't fit them. Sure, a song like 'Neon Lights' was great, even with vocals, but that's because it still retained the floaty, nearly ambient sound of their earlier work. These are mostly dumbed down pop songs. I guess it's indicative that the best songs here are the two instrumentals ('Rudolf Nureyeu' and 'We All Loved Each Other So Much') because they seem the most inspired. Great guitar sound throughout, though.

Pink Floyd — Meddle (1971)

Re-acquisition. I have known this album for a long time, but have not actually owned it for several years. I know I've owned it before, I just can't say exactly when or why I ditched it. It's good, but very scatterbrained. I guess, of all the "classic" period 70's Pink Floyd albums, it's the one that makes me most understand the comparisons between the Floyd and Radiohead. I do have to say that, of the shorter songs on side one, I definitely prefer the more acoustic-y, conventional numbers 'A Pillow of Winds' and 'Fearless.' They remind me of Neil Young, actually. Very good stuff. Catchy and poignant. Of course, everybody knows this album because of the sidelong epic 'Echoes' and rightfully so. It is definitely one of the progenitors of what we now understand as 'post rock.' Shifting time signatures, cascades of guitar effects and just a general idea of presenting rock music as more of a long form "serious" minded thing; 'Echoes' is a piece of the blueprint, for sure. Good stuff.

Bob Dylan — The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991

A wealth of stuff, but jesus christ. The ninety second long demo of 'Like A Rolling Stone' is better than anything most people would dream of recording. The best part is: you don't need to know the stuff that was released at the time to appreciate this. The demo for 'If Not for You' (which, indeed, features George Harrison just fucking godlike status on guitar) is fascinating, for instance. It sounds like neither George's version, nor Bob's own previously released version. Fawn over all this stuff as most people do, it's essentially worth sitting through these three CDs worth of material for the Blood on the Tracks demos and outtakes. It's been well acknowledged by many folks (myself included) that Blood is probably Bob's most enduring (and probably downright best) work, but christ on a crutch, just hearing those more sparse works from the surrounding sessions is just revelatory. When Bob sings "We had a falling out, like lovers often will" atop just a solo strummed acoustic guitar on the demo for 'If You See Her, Say Hello', it injects new life into the song. I can't even begin to describe how much incredible music is contained on this set. I get more and more into Bob Dylan as I get older and I guess it's easy, in retrospect, to take for granted just how brilliant he was — and how consistently so. This set —consisting of nothing but things that were deemed unfit next to his released perfection— puts it all into context. He was so good for so long that it's easy to forget just how good he was (and is). Incredibly good.


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