Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An A, a B, & a C

Since I'm now seven months and over three hundred discs into this project I'm obviously not going to go back and review all of those albums. I've already, though briefly, covered the Beatles and I'm planning on a major, multiple post write up about David Bowie (51 discs, took me a month). In the meantime I will post some reviews of a few high lights, in of course, alphabetical order.

The Apes of God ~ Edge of Arrival
I first discovered the Apes of God while working at WRIU. The unusual packaging of this disc made it stand out from the scores of other discs at the station and when I listened to it I was thrilled to find this wonderfully bizarre music. The vocals (primarily Gilbert Marhoefer) are almost entirely spoken word owing more to sprechtimme than to beatniks or rappers. The highly poetic lyrics tend to have an apocolyptical flair to them. For example, "You have been ruled by a warthog, but it has always been this way." in Starting Over In Purity or the angry growling of the title line in "Why can't Lansberry get his mail?" Musically the group is even harder to pin down. The overall texture is that of an electronically created music, although sprinkled thoughout with various woodwinds (clarinet, sax, bassoon). They seem to be less concerned with writing songs as with creating moods. It seems to me that the lyrics always come first and that the music is there a) to reinforce the words and b) because people don't buy poetry albums. Definitely an odd-ball disc, but worth it if you like outsider music.

The Bad Plus
When I started my listening project I also tried keeping a journal with a review of every disc I listened to. Didn't last too long, but I had this to say about the Bad Plus.
"Everyone needs to listen to the Bad Plus now. They are a jazz piano trio that functions more like a rock band than a jazz group. David King's rhythms are certainly closer to rock than jazz, Ethan Iverson absolutely pummels his piano to elicit sounds I didn't think were possible, and Reid Anderson grounds the whole sound while giving it yet another set of balls. Their choice of cover tunes reflects the rock-like approach, notably Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Black Sabbath's Iron Man. But hearing jazz versions of heavy metal and grunge songs is not a mere novelty. They delve into the heart of these songs to find the spirit (if you will) that makes the originals so exciting. And these covers are not the only points of interest on these albums. Their original songs carry the same energy and power. This is a truly amazing band that is obviously working hard at what they do."
I don't have much to add to that. All of their albums are amazing so I'm having a hard time recommending one over the other. My only other comment is that Prehensile Dream (first track on Suspicious Activity?) will kick you in the nuts, and I mean that in the good way.

And for C, a touch of the absurd..

If I Were A Carpenter A tribute to the Carpenters
Now, all sorts of arguements could be made about the "proper" filing of this disc. As a "Various Artists" disc it could go under "V." I also have other compilations filed by name in which case this would go under "I." I chose to file it under Carpenters, because that's where I would most likely look for it. Anyway...

First of all, a tribute to the Carpenters is a funny thing. Most of the songs they were famous for were covers. Richard Carpenter recieves writing credits on only three of the fourteen songs here. However, this disc contains several excellent versions of these songs by some first-rate alt-rock bands from the mid-nineties (wOOt - high hyphen count - wOOt!) Although as with any compilation, they're not all gems. Shonen Knife's version of Top Of The World ends up as a novelty because of the whole can't pronounce L's thing (world=worrd). I've always hated The Cranberries and their version of Bacharach's Close To You does nothing to change this opinion. And anyone who has only ever heard either the Carpenters or Babes in Toyland perform Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft should do themselves a favor and hunt down the original Klaatu version. (In fact, I think I'm going to take a break from my main listening, currently Miles Davis ~ Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel and put on the first Klaatu album. Ah, there now that's better...)

On the plus side: Matthew Sweet ~ Let Me Be The One, Sheryl Crow ~ Solitaire, American Music Club ~ Goodbye To Love. Cracker's version of Rainy Days & Mondays really gets at the heart of the inherent sadness of this song. The one song, however, that is worth the price of admission alone is Sonic Youth covering Leon Russell's Superstar. This is an example of a cover that not only surpasses the original, but becomes the definitive version. Period. End of story. I dare you to find a better version of this song. This song has been giving me shivers since this album came out almost thirteen years ago.

Well, that should do it for today. Happy listening!

1 comment:

Noise Machine said...

For those of you who are just greedy mofos, here's a link to the Sonic Youth song in question. (Holy shit, A youtube link to a blog that already had a wikipedia link to it. Hat trick!)