A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Monday, December 30, 2002

Alright, alright, alright--this will be my final post for Gregorian year 2002..thanks to everyone who stopped by and read all of my lunatic ravings for the past year--I couldn't a-done it without you..thanks to my cool web buddies over at Why Oh Why, especially A1phab3t--who also invited me to be part of Yo That Shit Is Wack, which I have been contributing to over the past year--but not much lately (sorry, A1pha!). I'd also like to thank my new buds over at The Flaming Lips' official site--those guys and gals are a hoot..and a special shout-out to Flaming Pixie for all of the convos par excellence (and the bottle of Laphroaig and CDs)..she is truly a wonder!
This past weekend, the Triptych Cryptonauts got together at Luna Pizza in Glastonbury..then trucked over to Slippery Slope's new hideaway--tucked into the Connecticut hills for some drinks n' cards--it was the best end-of-the-year event I could have hoped for..so big "huzzahs" to the gang: Neilalien (for the larfs and cheer--glad you *finally* got the discs), C-Dog (congrats again on the "event"!), Mega (for hipping me to usenet--mmm..albums..mmmm), Bone Daddy (for the cool convos), Prime Time (thanks for all the jokes, m'man!), The Fish Who.. (for the Luna Pizza suggestion), Slippery Slope (for hosting the cards n' drinks), Phinster B. (for being affable and friendly the entire evening!) and P.T.'s friend Charles (who mysteriously kept winning the card games..hmmmm...)..oh and Slip's fiancee Pam (for the koala joke...)..thanks again, all you groovy cats and girl--I had a blast--seriously, I haven't laughed that much in a *long* time!! Also thanks to some of the old Borders gang who made it to Pepe's in Manchester last Friday--it was good to catch up with Zack Q. Scott, his fiancee Phaela and the one and only Ian Schlein again--thanks for the laughs and stories..good times all around!
Well..I presented my "picks of the year" a couple of posts ago--so here are the ones that were O.K., but didn't quite make the final cut--at least I had higher expectations for them and they *nearly* delivered, but not quite on the mark...

Primal Scream "Evil Heat" (Columbia/Sony Records)--The Scream's first post-Creation album contains some *ace* tunes--unfortunately, the rest just sound like "XTRMNTR" out-takes..in fact, some probably *were* discards from those sessions--kinda worked over and given a 2002 sheen. Tracks like "Autobahn 66" and "Deep Hit Of Morning Sun" save the record from being a wasteland of Bobby Gillespie's "rock overdrive", but not even Kevin Shields' patented "M.B.V. production" help some of them from sounding like a "you've-heard-this-before" type of thing. All this, despite some daring experiments--like having Kate Moss (yes, the model--?!!!) sing on a track ("Some Velvet Morning") and a stripped-down, Spiritualized/Mercury Rev hommage ("Space Blues #2"). Ah well. it's *still* better than no Primal Scream at all..but how long will it be before I actually say it's better to have no Primal Scream *at all*? Bobby, don't fail me now...

Underworld "A Hundred Days Off" (V2/Junior Boy's Own Records)--I was waiting for this just to see if they'd still "have it" after DJ/underground club link Darren Emerson departed the fold in 2000 after completing the "Beaucoup Fish" tour. I was hoping they wouldn't revert back to Freur-style chart madness or to being bland Depeche Mode-wannabes. They did neither, thankfully--but what they *did* release doesn't exactly wow your ears off. The album seems to be lacking the crackle of earlier stuff, like "Second Toughest In The Infants" or even the "Cowgirl" single. Some reviews were praising it, calling it a "return to form"--well, what form? There are zingers on here--like the weird techno-country hybrid of "Trim"..and the most "classic Underworld"-sounding cut, "Dinosaur Adventure 3D"..but a lot of the rest just seem to be Smith and Hyde grasping for ideas and hoping one of them works..there's a lot more "real" guitar on here than on the last couple of records, and Hyde is actually *attempting to sing*--instead of performing his usual robotic solilloquies. Some of it passes inspection, some doesn't--well, it *is* their first record without Emerson--who was so pivotal in their 90s success..I'll cut them some slack, for now..

Porcupine Tree "In Absentia" (Lava/Atlantic Records)--P.T.'s "real" major-label debut (after starting on Delirium Records and moving over to K-Scope Records)..and sadly, just sounds like a vague Tool rip-off, except maybe with better musicianship. I guess the record is supposed to be intentionally dark, but then Steven Wilson will add a banjo to one track and harmony vocals to another, thereby confusing the whole thing. I'm just *hoping* it wasn't external record company pressure that led to this dreary album..the ol' "Well, Steven, you're in the big leagues now--gotta shift some units..this whole psychedelia thing is over..we're looking at a heavier sound here.." Ugh! They even included a bonus video included on the disc--and it's straight from the "dark, moody, Tool" video school...I guess "this ain't your father's Porcupine Tree" anymore. At least earlier albums had Wilson's "rawk" tendencies balanced out by spacier, psych moments--this one just barrels right toward the rock, no stoppin'. Please, Steven, if you're reading--dig out your tattered copy of "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" and throw it on the turntable..it's not too late...really...

The Chemical Brothers "Come With Us" (Astralwerks Records)--The Chems' return, but a lot of this is just "same ol' same ol'"..don't get me wrong--there's stuff on here that is as good as anything they've done..it's just the same story as a lot of these other picks..not enough wheat, too much chaff. I was wondering exactly *when* The Chemical Brothers would almost start sounding like an earlier version of themselves--and it's happened on this record. I recognized over half of the keyboard lines and drum sounds from their earlier albums and singles--and the "special guest" vocals are starting to border on un-necessary--this time around it's Richard Ashcroft, ex-The Verve and trying to jump-start his solo career, on "The Test". The standouts are "Star Guitar", with it's faux-My Bloody Valentine sound..and "Pioneers", which has a great melancholy keyboard hook at the beginning..."It Began In Afrika" makes good use of a conga drum sample and a spoken-word sound-bite and the title track has some excellent psychedelic moments. Overall, though, I didn't hear Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons striving for new sounds--only capitalizing on the ones they've already used. The same tactic was used by Aphex Twin last year--and I didn't much like his results either. It hasn't been a banner year for good (mainstream) electronica--what with this album, Underworld's..and Orbital sitting it out with a "best of" compliation--only F.S.O.L. and Boards Of Canada striking out on their own limbs. I hope for a more interesting '03.

On a final "New Year" note--to whatever labels are responsible (Elektra and Arista/Warner Bros., I think)--please, for the love of all that is good..*STOP* with the live Grateful Dead and Phish releases, already!! I don't care if there's a recording of Phish playing "Trout Mask Replica" backwards through a garden hose--there's *no* possible need for 40 live double (and triple) disc sets being made available. Most of their "phans" already have them bootlegged anyway--so you missed that boat a *long* time ago. The same with The Dead--it's *over* folks, Jerry is gone--there's no reason to release a triple CD set of them "live at some Bar-B-Q in some guy's yard in December 1973" or whatever--and the "real" Dead-Heads *already* have these shows--they are not necessary and are taking up room in record stores..thanks for hearing me out...Peace!