Monday, May 28, 2012

What's New?: 5.28.2012

Happy Memorial Day!  Let's go. . .

Andrew Bird — The Crown Salesman / So Much Wine single (2012)
Two tunes not on Break it Yourself, but presumably recorded at the same time.  'Crown Salesman' is just about the noisiest thing he's yet recorded, complete with a blaring, distortion-drenched coda.  'So Much Wine' is another one that plays up Andrew's recent folk-leanings (dig the faux Neil Young solo).  As two non-album pieces meant to compliment Break it Yourself, this 45rpm 7" single is a complete success.  I understand why they were cut from the album, but I'm glad these songs were not held back.

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire — Thrills (1998)
Born of the American Swing revival in the 90's, it figures that Andrew's first mass-distributed album is very much in that style.  I lived through it and wasn't crazy about it at the time, and even now, I'd say this is probably his "worst" album just based on gimmicky it now feels.  I can say this is one instance where Andrew's lyrics are a genuine put off for me.  However, the playing is obviously pretty passionate and when the band really cooks on the opener 'Minor Stab' I can definitely dig it.  When they really start to jam, it's good, but mostly, it's just an adequate, at times catchy, Swing revival affair.  Nothing really here that indicates the unique talent that was looming below.

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire — Oh!  The Grandeur (1999)
More of the same, basically.  Andrew's vocal style becomes a bit more recognizable here, but the musical backing is just as swingin' as on Thrills.  'Wait' is a fantastic ballad and probably the highlight here.  Otherwise, this is just another pleasant precursor to what he would really become. 

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire — The Swimming Hour (2001)
In the first thirty seconds of this thing, it's immediately clear that this is not the same Bowl of Fire as was heard on the previous two albums.  Truly, Andrew Bird as we now know him, seems to be created in that pre-song ambiance before the decidedly contemporary tune 'Two Way Action' finally kicks into gear.  It's certainly a little more rocked-up than usual, but it's unlike anything that had appeared on an Andrew Bird album previously.  And that's the essence of this album: it's just about trying something new.  'Case in Point' features, I believe, the very first instance of Andrew overdubbing his pizzicati and bowed violin, so that's fun.  As a whole, this album sounds more like a gypsy rock record (think Devotchka or early Calexico) than a swing revival one and it can be now be asserted, in retrospect, as the true turning point in Andrew Bird's catalogue.  Weather Systems is probably the first album that the "new" Andrew Bird recorded, but the Swimming Hour finds him saying goodbye to his previous musical self and squeezing every ounce of possibility out of his former musical guise.  Pretty fun, when his entire evolution is considered. 

The Durutti Column — Vini Reilly (deluxe edition) (1988/1989)
A second proper reissue for one of the most definitive and brilliant statements ever captured by a contemporary musician.  The initial reissue from 1996 added a wealth of bonus material, all of which is left off this recent Kooky reissue from last year.  Instead, disc one of this reissue leaves the original thirteen song album as is and adds a nine song bonus disc of completely previously unissued bonus material.  I will be keeping my old CD copy of the 1996 reissue because it gathers up things that are not otherwise available, while this recent reissue adds demos and outtakes from the time period that are equally as essential.  The documentation of the different pieces of 'Finding the Sea' coming together as one is worth the pricetag on its own.  Elsewhere the demo for 'William B' is a moody and solitary piece all on its own, while the multi-part 'Sketches on Stratocaster' is a piece of Vini Reilly virtuosity that is thankfully preserved.  Between the 1996 reissue and this new version, there is now a proper deluxe edition.  Advice: program the two together and you get a thirty song, 102 minute masterpiece of a musician so happy and so bubbling over with creativity that he can hardly contain himself.  Only one of the greatest and most important albums ever.  All that and it has 'Otis' on it. Win.

The Beatles —Let it Be. . . Naked (1969/2003)
So many thoughts and feelings caught up in the Beatles.  Where to begin?  I've commented on some solo things recently and I should now disclose the bulk of why that is: I've come under the opinion in the last year or two that the Beatles are, in fact, overrated and obnoxious, but okay to like.  I hate that generations upon generations will have them forced down their collective throats with no obvious alternative presented.  I hate that simply adequate musicians have been elevated to the status of gods, while so many of their contemporaries have subsequently fallen into obscurity because they simply weren't as popular.  I hate that people just take them as being "the best" without actually digging and deciding for themselves.  But, all that aside, I like their actual music.  I have owned (most of) their catalogue for some time, just have never felt the desire to listen to it through most of my late 20's, out of sheer posturing and worry of what I will look like as a supposed "serious" music fan listening to the Beatles.  I guess I'm officially old enough to not give a fuck anymore, because when I was presented with the opportunity to buy this revised edition of Let it Be at a nice price recently, I leaped at it.  Let it Be has always been the ugly stepchild of the later Beatles output.  I have always loved it, with the exception of 'The Long and Winding Road', unconditionally.  Not as bloated as the White Album, more fun than Abbey Road.  I was far too into my self-obsessed "music fan too cool for the Beatles" phase when this Naked edition of the album was released to be concerned.  It's not the Let it Be album presented definitively (any Beatles scholar will remark on how the initial sessions for the album were troubled, which resulted in the album coming after Abbey Road, despite actually being completed before the Abbey Road sessions).  It is an alternate version of what actually happened during those initial 1969 recording sessions though.  Of course, at the time, I thought, "Oh, now that George is dead, Paul is doing whatever he wants."  And part of me still feels that way.  But, lookah here, 'The Long and Winding Road' is actually listenable!  The new sequencing is. . . interesting.  I don't like that 'Two of Us' (secretly one of the band's top five songs ever) isn't the leadoff song anymore, but I do like that John's previously non-album b-side 'Don't Let Me Down' is included and George's 'For You Blue' has been elevated to track three.  Otherwise, my biggest obvious complaint is that the between song bits have disappeared.  Granted, they painted a picture of the band as silly, bickering, goof-offs, but it told a story of four people that had been painted as demigods and wanted to lower their own egos a bit.  It was perhaps too real, as the infamous film that documented the sessions has remained an obscurity since its initial run.  And now, here's this new version of the album will be the one that surely good quantities of new generations get introduced to and I'm still unsure how to feel about that.  It's a valid revision, to be sure.  I have my reservations about it, but, the question remains: is it any good?  Yes, it is.  It strips the album back to its barest of essentials (which was the point all along).  It's not an improved version of the album, just a different variation.  Is it valid?  Yes.  Is it worthwhile?  Yes.  Is it better?  Nope.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

For your information, Vini Reilly is an excellent person.

I don't know.

It's late.

I've been thinking about this.

He's obviously better at making music than most.

But, I don't know. 

Just knowing that he is there, recording beautifully noodly little vamps into his portastudio just makes me feel hopeful about the world around me.  It's as if he's just this little sub-universe unto himself and anybody that hasn't heard LC or Idiot Savants hasn't ever known true beauty and an actual lust for life.

His personal struggles, his demons.  Love, loss, death, unimaginable pain and pleasure are all found in his music.  To know his music is to know the understanding that life outside the womb is confusing as hell, but ultimately, worth the journey if for nothing else than the scenery.

His is a music of world-weary, life-affirming brilliance.  Not everything will be golden, pretty and joyous, but it will sure as hell be worth consideration.


Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

Exhibit E

Exhibit F

Exhibit G

I wish he would never stop playing.

Because he is one of the best ever.