Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's New?: 10.15.2011


Yes, it's quite true: I bought Genesis records. Let's talk about them. . .

Genesis — Foxtrot (1972)

Well, I guess if this is as good as Genesis ever got (which is the general consensus, reading over reviews sites across the internet), I guess I like Genesis pretty darn well. Even still, they do have a sense of second tier-ishness about them to me. I don't know what it is, but I can't connect fully and completely. But, gosh dang if there aren't passages of sheer outright beautiful awesomeness littered all throughout their music; a concentration of which whose percentage is rather high on this album. I mean, the first two minutes of the starter 'Watcher of the Skies' is just pure organ and synth blissout. The way it morphs so perfectly into the actual song is a pretty magical moment. The whole song has a lighter than air feel to it and the constant shift of the dynamics only enhances the triumphant feeling it also possesses. Maybe it's the Yes fanboy in me, but I instantly noticed a nick from the chord sequence of 'Time and a Word' in 'Time Table', but I still like the song, so there. I think what really appeals to me about the band's early material, most of all, is the British folk aspect that is present. At any given point, these complex and labyrinthine songs can break down to these bare bones acoustic riffs that are just heaven. Case in point, here, is obviously the ninety second long instrumental 'Horizons' which has such melodic originality to it, while still retaining hints of classical-mindedness, that I just sit back and marvel at how good it is. The by then status-quo sidelong, twenty two minute prog-rock symphony 'Supper's Ready' is appropriately dense and nearly impenetrable if you just pay attention to Peter Gabriel's (still thought provoking) lyrics. But the guitar and keyboard work throughout the song by (collectively) Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford is just excellent. I'm not a Phil Collins apologist, however. His drumming is merely adequate, but it does do the job, so there you have it. Overall, it definitely strikes me as simultaneously the album you play for people who hate Genesis and/or prog. Because it certainly contains the best and/or most accessible moments of both.

Travis — Side EP (2001)

Travis b-sides; now we're talking! The title track here is a longtime favorite of mine by the band; a surprisingly Cure-ish little thing that jangles during the verses and explodes with an grand swoop during the choruses — isn't that why I love them in the first place? (rhetorical answer: of course) The three b-sides here are a mixed bag. The studio track 'Ancient Train' finds the band filtering their sound through a nearly Bob Dylan-esque Americana twang and sense of irony. Can't say I saw that one coming; but darned if it ain't great. The other two tracks are live performances. 'Driftwood' is taken on and finds it to be more crowd singalong than actual Fran vocals. I do love hearing when a band has the crowd on its side, but it doesn't necessarily merit repeat plays. The final live song is a cover of Bowie's 'All the Young Dudes' and it's just pure fun. Fran can't hit all the high notes and it's pretty obvious, but the band clearly loves playing the song, so it's one of those rare cover tunes that gets by on pure vibes, despite how mediocre the actual reading may be. Fun stuff; always nice to hear more by these guys.

The Horrors — Primary Colours (2009)

After really loving Skying it was hard for me not to wonder just exactly where the hell these guys came from. With this album, question answered: they have been convincingly faithful revivalists for several years, apparently. This album is just noisier, that's all (take in a five second preview of every track here and you will mostly get squalling feedback and distortion. From the swirling, gooey, reverb-drenched guitars that dominate 'Three Decades' and the title track, to the incredible 'Scarlet Fields' and the stunning closer 'Sea Within a Sea' (both of which sound like Mark Burgess singing over outtakes from the Cure's Pornography), it's clear that this band has done their homework and that they are not just a revival group. Like I said of Skying: this just makes me think the band is less of a revivalist group and more of a genuine "apostle" of the sound. It just feels natural with these guys. And sheesh, they are incredible songwriters.

Prince — Mountains/Alexa de Paris (1986)

Sure, 'Mountains' —as far as its structure and overall tone— is essentially unchanged from the album version, but this is the epic ten minute extended version. Completely worth it on its own, as it features the Revolution, in peak form, just jammin' out. It's a rare moment of Prince actually releasing something that justifies all those bootlegs (I mean, there's a reason people wanted to hear more, right?). The b-side is the instrumental 'Alexa de Paris' and while it is a bit more guitar jammy than I generally prefer, it is Prince just wailing away, Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Hazel style. Really good stuff for Parade-obssessives like me.

Genesis — Trespass (1970)

Well, hey there, this is darn good, isn't it? I mean, I still have no clue what Peter Gabriel is talking about, but just the sound of his voice and the band on this album is pure chemistry. I don't get it for the life of me, but I do feel something. This is probably the band's real first album, as their initial material (from 1968/1969) has been pretty much disregarded by the band for years running. It's definitely the first album that sounds like "them." Every song here is just ace for me, but 'White Mountain' really sticks out. It's an example of buildup tension and release executed perfectly. The folkiness of the album cannot be denied. And maybe that's why I like it so much: musically, it's very reminiscent of John Martyn, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake albums of the same period. Really solid stuff.

Genesis — Nursery Cryme (1971)

This one is also really good — but a bit of a rehash. I mean, I like people who are clearly doing nothing wrong to repeat themselves as often as possible (Vini Reilly, Morrissey, Bill Evans, the Cocteau Twins, to name a few) but I don't know. This one feels formulaic. Now, after trashing it right out of the gate, I will say that the first four minutes of the album are absolutely thrilling on 'The Musical Box.' If only the rest of the album had been able to retain the same level of intensity. It's just fine, honestly. And look, I gave it a rather high score. I've already played it to heck and back, so there. It's a good pre-cursor to Foxtrot. They just did everything on here better elsewhere.

Genesis — Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Hey, more Genesis albums from the early 70's that are just darn solid affairs, imagine that! Again, this band knows how to kick off albums with insanely good buildups, as 'Dancing With the Moonlit Knight' is just fantastic, starting as acoustic plucking, morphing into charged-up gallop rock and ending with keyboard euphoria; hot damn, that's some listenable multi-movement rock music. Going off into left field immediately after that is the glammy (??!?!!!!?) 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).' I love the song, honestly, but my confusion arises from the fact that I was always under the impression that proggers and glam kids were not on the same page, but this just confuses me. The grandiose chorus, the esoteric lyrics about fashion; good stuff. The real kicker though is the album closing suite of the thirteen minute 'The Cinema Show' and 'Aisle of Plenty.' It follows the now familiar (yet, no less stunning) Genesis formula of slow acoustic folky thing that builds into prggy show off bits, but this then strips down the layers, slows things back down and ends on another (entirely different) acoustic folky thing and it's just downright affecting how well it's pulled off. Melodically new (for them, anyway) and conceptually great stuff. And the whole album hangs together exceptionally well.

John Lennon — Imagine (1971)

Re-acquisition. It's often been said that this album starts off like it's about to be the greatest album of all time, but then it falls in love with itself. Where the Plastic Ono album got scared by its own humility (and therefore, was an alltime enduring classic), this album almost sounds like it's going for too too much. That's not to say it doesn't have tunes for days, because it does. The bigger arrangements and backings and reliance on blues cliches that dominate most of the album do not play to its advantage. It also seems overtly political without reason. I'm sure everybody knew John was a Labour supporter, but some stuff is just a conceptual failure here ('I Don't Wanna be Solider' for instance). This is all balanced by fantastically genuine and venerable moments like 'Oh My Love,' 'How?,' the Dylan-esque 'Oh Yoko!' and the lifechanging title track. There's not an unlistenable song on the album, but it is very uncohesive. It's very telling that, on an album as uneven and chaotic as this one, Lennon would never again sound as assured and satisfied as he did here.


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