Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's New?: 1.24.2012

A small batch of mostly Byrds.

The Byrds — In The Beginning (1964)

This contains basically the band's original demos.  None of the songs were released in the form they are on here  until several years later, but in different running orders and (if I understand correctly) not as complete as this one.  For somebody who's into the Byrds, it's basically a more lightweight version of what you already know you like about the band.  Jangly guitars?  Check.  Group harmonies?  Check.  Swooping choruses?  Check.  It's all just presented a little more politely than you may be used to.  Think of like this: they are a little more Kingston Trio than Bob Dylan here.  Although you do get somewhat garagey moments like 'You Movin'' which sounds great next to their spooky original rendition of 'You Showed Me' (covered five years later to great fame by the Turtles).  You get the original, decidedly very folky, arrangement of 'Mr. Tambourine Man', which is fun because they would claim the tune as their own just a year later with a revolutionary arrangement.

WU LYF — Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (2011)

Great sound these Manchester boys have worked up!  Reminiscent of Doves at times, actually.  They didn't really come onto my radar when they first released this album last summer, but better late than never.  Musically, they're very much in that echoey, noisy-yet-melodic-as-hell, cascading, "intimate roar" sort of post-rock vein.  Vocally, they have this singer that doesn't sing as much as he just shouts and screeches his way through the songs.  This can get a little grating after fourty minutes, but the powerful instrumentals behind him make a strong case for overlooking it.  Take a tune like 'Cave Song' for instance: probably the most aggressive he gets on the entire album, but the riffs and the way the song builds in just darn good.  And that should be why someone like me is interested in this album: these boys know their way around a redemptive build-up pretty well.  'We Bros' is case in point. One moment big and grandiose, the next sparse and slow, all building to a seemingly lager-fueled group singalong.  Hard to categorize exactly what these guys are trying to do with such pompous-sounding music and purposely "mysterious" persona, but the tunes definitely have a lot of qualities that I like in music, so whatever.  I suppose they've self-dubbed their sound "heavy pop" and I guess I see what they mean.  That's also the name of the album's closing song (and one of it's highlights, as well).

The Byrds — Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

The title track influenced a generation and ignited the idea behind a melding of folk-inspired rock music.  Calling it seminal, groundbreaking or even just plain old important seems like a total understatement at this point.  There's four Dylan covers here, none as good as the title track (though 'All I Really Want to Do' was a hit in its own right).  A few other songs are reworked from the 1964 sessions documented on In the Beginning, and all are improvements.  The best of the originals are the two Gene Clark numbers 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' and 'It's No Use' — coupla nice rockers, if you ask me.  Overall, totally strong album by a band whose potential must have seemed limitless at the time.

The Byrds — Younger Than Yesterday (1967)

This seems to be an overlooked one in the bigger picture of the Byrds' initial run of albums.  Gene Clark was out and there's only one Dylan cover (their surprisingly good attempt at 'My Back Pages'), so I guess that kind of explains it.  Shame, it's actually one of the better ones in that remarkable run.  Chris Hillman's Beatles-esque 'Have You Seen Her Face' is a good one, while 'CTA-102' starts out normal enough, but gets pretty wacky pretty fast.  Fun.  David Crosby was emerging as a strong songwriting voice and his four originals are definitely my favorites here.  The best of the lot is 'Everybody's Been Burned' which has that great, eerily cynical calm vibe to it that Crosby made his own.  Overall, thinking about it now, this thing's all over the place, but there isn't a song here that isn't a total winner.  I've been saying this a lot lately about these guys, but sometimes greatest hits collections just aren't good enough to paint the whole picture.  And this album definitely illustrates that perfectly.  Absolutely a contender for my favorite album by the band.


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