Saturday 29 June 2013

The 80s Again....

It doesn't get much better than this.

Here's a Top 100 LPs of the 80s list that isn't the usual rock-crit consensus. FACT certainly do their own thing and good on them for that. Good to see one of my all time favourite records Julee Cruise's Floating Into The Night getting some recognition, although I thought it came out in 1990 but no the date on the label on the vinyl says 89. Steve Roach's ambient masterpiece Structures From Silence, which is an endlessly listenable LP, doesn't usually make these lists so that's a pleasing surprise. Rapeman's LP makes another 2013 appearance which has surely pushed it into cult LP territory. The Cocteau Twins and Felt make it but AR Kane and Siouxsie And The Banshees miss out. The cult of Coil continues its ascendancy, with Horse Rotorvator making an appearance. This list is so hipster it doesn't include This Heat but has a This Heat side project! The same goes for Swans, no Children Of God but (World Of) Skin's 1st LP makes it. This is definitely a 2013 look at the 80s which FACT acknowledge. It's funny what's seen as hip or worthy from the 80s by the kids of 2013 (some of these writers were maybe there in very mini form). Virgo come in at no. 2 with their self-titled LP. Who the fuck are they? More music to discover from the 80s who'd have thunk it? Hang on no Birthday Party! What? No MX 80 Sound! Perhaps it's a joke list....

Ministry over this?! Naye.
Ministry over Pat Benatar?! No Way!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Tony Soprano's Legacy

To put it simply Tony Soprano acted by James Gandolfini set the benchmark for characters in television drama. This in turn has had an incredible affect on the acting and drama that has followed since on the small screen. It's a funny turn of events that has led to the best acting now being on the telly and not in the movies. Me & the Mrs would watch Sopranos and say 'Can you believe this is not real?'  Tony had other characters surrounding him that were as brilliantly acted as he was. Carmella, Paulie, Christopher, Ralphy, Uncle Junior, Johnny Sac, Janice, Adrianna, Dr Melfi, Tony's mum etc. That's an incredible list of characters whose actors were so good that you believed they were real.

It was Tony's show though and his multidimensional and nuanced performance is monumental. Apart from making the Sopranos the classic that it is Gandolfini has raised the stakes so high that he has caused an unprecedented eruption of great character acting.

Walter in his Whites.
Music may have died in the new millennium so this late flowering of tv drama is perhaps how we'll remember the 00s and the 10s as the new golden age of tv drama. Who'd have ever thought that? We hardly watch tv like we used to. With our i-phones, i-pads, wiis, xboxs and computers up the wazoo does the telly even get turned on?  So this peak in tv drama has come at an odd and unstable time for tv. I'm sure downloads & dvd sales insure it occurring. In my home at least these series are consumed in seasons via the dvd. Last weekend the entire season 5 (part 1) of Breaking Bad was watched. That's 8 episodes. Right there you have some of nows greatest actors. Who can believe that Walter White is the same guy as the dad in Malcolm In The Middle? Then there's Jesse, Gus, Tuco, Hector etc. Without Tony Soprano would these characters have existed? Maybe he made writers and actors see the potential for the quality standards we could have. McNulty, Kimia, Bunk, Omar, Bubbles, Marlo, Prez, Snoop, Avon, Stringer Bell to list just a few of the unforgettable and incredibly acted characters from The Wire a show that followed in The Sopranos wake.  I didn't even realise two of these guys were actually posh British actors. This cast took The Sopranos mantle and possibly even surpassed it. They certainly equalled their standard as have others like the aforementioned Breaking Bad as well as Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire et al.

I guess Tony Soprano was a catalyst for premier acting and we all get to reap the benefits. David Fisher played by Michael C Hall in Six Feet Under is possibly my all time favourite but hang on what about Clare and Brenda from the same show? The list goes on...Nicky, Margene, Alby, Roman, Frank and Rhonda from Big Love.... Al Swearagen, Alma Garet, Trixie, Calamity Jane, Joanie Stubbs, The Doc, Charlie Utter, Mr Wu, EB Farnum are also all great characters beautifully acted in Deadwood... I can keep the lists coming.

The Sopranos and the shows that followed are going to be seen like late 60s LPs are seen by the likes of Rolling Stone and Mojo. These shows are going to be your Sgt Peppers, Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blondes  et al. They will perennially feature in the top 10s of all time, be endlessly discussed, have their order shuffled every few years and be revered as peaks of popular culture because they are.

Is The Sopranos The Sgt Pepper of telly?

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Gene Clark's No Other

The Best LA LP of The 70s?

What I've been tryin to get to for a while now is this: Gene Clark's No Other. Here's another record I don't really need to talk about as some of the greats have written about it here and here. Anyway this is a record that is still building its cult. It'll probably be 5 to 10 years before he gets to that stage that, I dunno, someone like Nick Drake ended up in 10 years ago. A sort of saturation point where you've gone from cult figure to everyone who's ever gonna know about you knowing about you. I guess Rodriguez is reaching this position now, sure a doco helps! As does an Academy Award for said doco. Anyway David Geffen apparently pumped a hundred grand into Clark's magnificent 1974 opus and upon receiving it in the flesh promptly chucked it in the bin in a hissy fit because it only had 8 songs. Geffen refused to promote the LP and it came and went in a flash. Clark's career never recovered and he allegedly became a tragic figure until he died in 1991 before the No Other cult had gained much momentum. This LP is up there with the best 70s West Coast records by Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Sly Stone and Dennis Wilson and could possibly be the best of the lot. I reckon we definitely get our $100,000 worth. It's lush. It's sublime. This album is the perfect amalgamation of songs, performance and production. It does not get much better than this if indeed it does at all! There's something intangibly magic about this LP and framing it in Gram Parson's term 'Cosmic Americana' doesn't do it justice. This ain't no hippy hillbilly record. However there is a dichotomy at work here. Clark wrote this album during a deep spiritual time but then recorded it in the grips of out of control cocaine use/abuse. An interesting footnote to Australian readers is that Venetta Fields, yes she of John Farnham's band, sings backing vocals on the trax Life's Greatest Fool Some Misunderstanding.

I is diggin those 1974 threads man.

Friday 14 June 2013

The Eagles & Satan Part 2

Here's a very bad close up of the previously mentioned dude in the 2nd window of Hotel California. According to some Christians online this is apparently Anton LaVey who was the founder of The Church Of Satan. Don Henley says it's a woman hired by the band. Who should I believe? Check out Jesus Is Saviour for more info!

Anton auditions for a villain
part in Get Smart

Ensemble Skalektrik-Trainwrekz

Totally diggin this. More gold from the Ekoplekz, eMMplekz dude whose name escapes me at the moment. This is different to anything he's done before and quite a surprise! Dubby environmental power hauntology if you get me?

Hotel California

I just read Barney Hoskyns's Waiting For The Sun and it's pretty good up until the late 70s when he starts to rush through punk, paisley, metal through to Hip Hop. I'm a Beach Boys, Byrds, Burritos, Love, The Doors, Gene Clark kinda guy so when it got to The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown and ugh James Taylor I thought I'd probably stop reading as my interest waned but man they were all so fucked and took so many drugs it was absurd. Anyway what I'm gettin at is the biggest impact* The Eagles had on me, apart from hearing their songs on the radio growing up ad nauseum, was the inner of the gatefold sleeve of Hotel California.  While in about year 8 in High School me and a bunch of friends watched this video about backmasking, satanism etc. in rock at one of my friends houses whose dad happened to be a teacher at our catholic School.  The video would have been produced by some kind of American fundamentalist christian group to scare the kids away from that evil Rock n Roll. I vaguely recall stuff on The Beatles, Led Zep and Queen and their use of satanic backmasking. The main thing I remember however was the dissection of the lyrics to Hotel California and the study of its cover. From then on that cover became a spooky artifact. It was in my home. I don't recall anyone ever playing it but the cover was often perused with spooky delight. At other peoples houses we'd go through the record collections to invariably find the album cover to check out the dude up there in the 2nd of the 3 windows upstairs. He was meant to be the devil or something. It was pretty creepy whatever he was. The Hotel according to the video was some kind of satanic church...'you can check in anytime you like but you can never leave'...... Anyway I should check and see if that video is on the youtubes.

*I loved Don Henley's Boys Of Summer (One of my all time fave 80s tunes!), I bought the 7", but I probably didn't even realise until much later that he was the dude in The Eagles.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Boards Of Canada-Tomorrow's Harvest

The opening of the new record Tomorrow's Harvest seems funny to me. They have a little logo tune or is it a logtone? An Ident? I don't recall them having used one before and to me it seems like a nod to the people they've influenced ie. The Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle and the rest of the GhostBox crew. Then there are hints of John Carpenter that I don't recall being referenced before on their previous records, which could possibly be a nod to Pye Corner Audio or even Umberto. One wonders whether they keep up with all this stuff or it's just a coincidence.

Tomorrow's Harvest does seem a lot darker and not as lovely* or gorgeous* as previous efforts. The beats seem to trudge and appear quite inert. It's still unmistakably Boards Of Canada with no sign of the guitars used on The Campfire Headphase.  The Jury is still out for me as I'm only half a dozen listens in. Still it must be alright even if I've played it that many times. I remember playing Music Has The Right To Children about 5 years ago to someone who only listened to trance and he said it was like electronic funeral music. He didn't even think you could chill out to it. So the darkness thing was always there but now we're splitting hairs over its minute shades.

*Lovely and *Gorgeous are two terms, I learnt yesterday, that announcers on a certain Melbourne independent radio station are never supposed to use on air about the music they are playing. Guess what all you prince's and princess's of darkness nice is nice! The Black Crow King obviously still wields influence in Melbourne town.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Old Geezers!

A quick look at recent releases reveals it's not just Bowie, MBV, Daft Punk & Boards of Canada making comebacks this year.
Goo Goo Dolls
Ben Folds Five
Barenaked Ladies
Jimmy Eat World
Tangerine Dream with Brian May(?)
John Fogerty
Alice In Chains
Billy Joel
Iggy & The Stooges
Rod Stewart
Black Sabbath
Alison Moyet
Alannis Morissete
The Orb
Skinny Puppy
The Pastels

And many more all have new LPs for you to listen to in 2013!

 Who's listening?

Tangerine Dream with Brian May-What the fuck would this be like? I'm almost tempted to listen to listen to it but... not quite!

I must say I'm slightly intrigued at the Skinny Puppy LP. Didn't one of them die?

What makes me listen to the new Boards Of Canada album over say the new Black Sabbath er.. hang on Boards Of Canada have really not released a bad record ever and well how many good records have Sabbath produced since like 1974? Am I gonna listen to that Orb record though? I dig The Orb and their first few LPs. But I don't think I'm gonna check out the new one. Why? It might be cool. We are fickle aren't we. Do I wanna just leave The Orb in their early 90s heyday? Why not leave BOC in the late 90s/early 00s though? I loved that John Fogerty comeback album in like 1985 Centrefield. What's another 30 years difference gonna make? probably quite a bit to me and Mr Fogerty. Alison Moyet anyone? Surely she's the original Adele doncha reckon? Didn't all the Alice In Chains people die? Or was it just the singer? Me and the Mrs couldn't even come up with a Texas song, she could however sing me a Goo Goo Dolls song and I recognised it. Barenaked Ladies had the song about a Chinese Chicken I think......

The Fog is back again.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Sagittarius - Present Tense

Another gem I've just discovered. More relationships to The Byrds and The Beach Boys. I know I'm not really gettin to the best ex-Byrds records but I came across this last week and can't believe it hasn't been in my life till now. Gary Usher is the man behind this project. He is probably best known as a producer for The Byrds and for writing a couple of Beach Boys classics including 409 and In My Room. He'd also written tracks for Dick Dale, Frankie Avalon and Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Anyway Gary and Curt Boettcher got together in the studio and created this psych-pop masterpiece. They dragged in other friends Terry Melcher, Bruce Johnston and Glen Campbell to help make this magic. It's like psych with all the rock removed which is actually quite refreshing. I guess the closest thing I can compare this to is The Free Design but its way more psychedelic, freaky and haunting than them. This aint no rock record and it's all the better for it. I cannot stop playing this LP and can't quite figure out why. It's been called soft rock, sunshine pop but I think the best and most fitting term is Baroque Pop. There are a couple of other Usher studio projects, Super Stocks and The Hondells which  are more on the surf rock tip. Curt Boettcher was a just a name to me previous to hearing this, maybe someone Bob Stanley once wrote about or admired. He produced The Association and had his own groups The Ballroom and The Millenium. He even had something to do with Dennis Wilson's classic Pacific Ocean Blue I think. Boettcher died relatively young and has become a cult figure ever since. The Millennium's LP Begin is considered a cult classic, I'll mos def have to track that one down along with the 2nd Sagittarius LP.

Gary Usher
Baroque-pop genius?
Curt Boettcher

Monday 3 June 2013

Terry Melcher - Terry Melcher LP

How did I end up here? Well a while ago a friend of mine told me he was gettin into The Byrds. I'd been tellin him for a while he should check out Gene Clark. So then I thought I'd do a post about the best Post-Byrds records. Then as I was thinking up some crap to write I remembered this song I'd heard about 7 years ago on the radio by sometime Beach Boy songwriter and Byrds producer Terry Melcher. It really struck me as quite edgy and unhinged and has stayed with me ever since. I've never been able to find a physical copy of the above LP but I finally tracked down an MP3 of said artifact. Anyway I can't figure out which of the tunes it was because there is quite an intense unhinged quality to a lot of the trax. There is something in his voice that is so real and slighly terrified. This is a man who was friends with Charlie Manson and was supposedly the real target for one of the Manson murders. I'm sure he did his fair share of coke and was quite paranoid. His mum was Doris Day talk about yin and yang! That was LA though wasn't it?!. The sweetest most innocent harmonies coming from some of the most mental people in town ie. The Beach Boys. Anyway did I miss the Mojo where they said this was a forgotten classic or am I one of only a few who think this is pure gold from LA in 1974. Doris even does backing vocals on Terry's version of These Days which makes it brilliantly haunting. When he says he's 'OK and so is LA' in a jaunty tone you don't really believe him particularly when it's a sentiment expressed to his shrink on Dr Horowitz. Particularly affecting is the booze hound lament The Bars Have Made A Prison Out of Me. His sense of desperation for something to believe in is palpable in songs like Beverly Hills, Halls Of Justice and The Old Hand Jive. His spirit though is broken but he keeps on going, just, and thankfully so because this is a fucking great record! Features such luminaries as Sneaky Pete, Hal Blaine and Chris Hillman. Terry's old buddy and sometime Beach Boy Bruce Johnston co-produces.

Other Peoples Memories