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

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Hello again, musos! Well, it's about that time--to do the "year-end" wrap-up kinda stuff. It's close enough, anyway. It was nice to see all of the heartfelt responses to Mary Hansen's sudden, tragic death--there were plenty of posts at both Stereolab's site and The Flaming Lips message board. My man in Minneapolis, M.A.D., also sent me a notice about Zal Yanovsky's untimely passing earlier this week. Yanovsky was a founder-member of 60s folk-flower pop band The Lovin' Spoonful, along with John Sebastian. The Spoonful crafted some of that era's memorable "AM singles"--which, though derided by the uber-hipsters of the day, helped spread the counter-culture image and ideology to more mainstream listeners..and you can't deny that "Summer In The City" is extremely catchy. The Spoonful flourished from 1966 through 1968, and folded when Sebastian decided to go solo (turning in a performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival that was captured on the film and record set). Thanks for the great tunes, Zal, you'll be missed...and thanks again to M.A.D. for informing me of his passing.
Speaking of M.A.D., he has published another great review at PopMatters, well, two of them actually. One is for the Dropkick Murphys..and the other is for seminal early 90s British "shoegazers" Ride. It's been said that term was first used to describe Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins) and his performing style--but Ride fit the bill with their morose harmonies and psychedelic-revival guitar squalls. It seems a single-disc version of the Ox4 three-disc set (that I have) has been released. M.A.D. tackles it with his usual panache, so check it out here..that is, if you want a capsule back to 1991..it's leaving soon..you should be on it.
Soooo....I was originally thinking on writing out a "Top Ten" list, the way I did last year. I started thinking about it, and the truth is that I don't even *know* if I bought ten *brand new* discs this year..I mean, I'm sure I have, but I don't think I bought enough new records to sift through and *pick* what I thought were the ten best. Instead, I'll just list some of the discs I think are note-worthy..besides, Top Ten lists are *so* 2001 ;-) And, here they are--my picks for Gregorian calendar year 2002:

The Future Sound Of London "The Isness" (Hypnotic Records)--Gaz Cobain is one tripped-out mofo, just ask him. I thought these guys (Cobain and his F.S.O.L. partner Brian Dougans) were gone--slipped into the electronic haze after their '96 mindf**k, "Dead Cities". It turns out Cobain went on some sort of existential road-trip, leaving England for L.A., India and Mexico. He was trying to cure himself of perceived (and real) sickness. The poor lad had mercury poisoning from his tooth fillings--which he discovered after much travelling and spending of his monies earned from earlier F.S.O.L. releases. He and Dougans developed "The Isness" from various sporadic sessions recorded over the past six years and a crazy, hour-long mix they dubbed "A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Growing In Your Brain)"--they could never give "Bubble" a proper release, because of sample clearances. So, they tore into "The Isness" instead. And it is like *nothing* being released at the moment--there's more sitar heard here than on Cornershop's latest..and yes, Cobain isn't exactly a singer--but I give him props for trying. "The Isness" is worth it for "Go Tell It To The Trees Egghead" alone..which sounds like a Delta blues raga--courtesy of B. Shrivastav on sitar and old Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas on slide gee-tar...one of the finest tracks I heard all year.

The Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" (Warner Bros. Records)--Wow! I *knew* this would be a good record, but I had no idea it would have such an impact. I mean, yeah, "The Soft Bulletin" (their last album) got some acclaim among the pomo-hipster/critic set..but The Lips were *still* like a little club, even just two years ago. Now they've been on Conan O'Brien, toured with Beck...and are generally getting bigtime attention. Will this ruin The Lips? Hell no. This one continues the prog/symphonic vein they started mining on "Zaireeka"--but pushes it even further..with Wayne Coyne even getting a little Buckminster Fuller-ish on "Do You Realize??" (the album's breakthrough single)--all that stuff about the sun going down being an illusion caused by the world spinning 'round. It's so great to see an "ideas" band who've stuck it out for so long finally get some credit, and they are another band who constantly improve themselves..sure, the lyrics aren't always these literary achievements, but that's part of the charm of The Lips--they could be guys you work with or drink beers with at the local watering hole. It's tough to say where they are going from "Yoshimi..", because they *seem* to have perfected their symphonic-pop approach. I don't care, because I'm sure I will like it.

Cornershop "Handcream For A Generation"--Speaking of Cornershop..*they've* returned after a long hiatus and a side-project (the Clinton "Disco and The Halfway to Discontent" record). This time around it's just Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres, with a bunch of studio guests. Singh is *still* firmly planted in the 70s (and maybe a little in the early 80s)..but this time he's incorporated a little reggae and electronica into his funk/rock stew. There's some really catchy tunes on here.."Staging The Plauging Of The Raised Platform", though it goes on a bit too long--is this record's "Brimful Of Asha"--there's the all-out rocker "Lessons Learned From Rocky I To Rocky III"..and the strange reggae/funk hybird of "Motion The 11". "Music Plus 1" is their attempt at French electronica and by the time they get around to the requisite "Indian" track "Spectral Mornings" (with Noel Gallagher providing some drone-y guitar work)--it's been quite a ride. They sound a lot tighter on this album, like they've been practising. The loose, almost sloppy production of "When I Was Born For The Seventh Time" had it's charm--but they sound clearly revitalized on "Handcream.."--let's hope they stick with it.

Boards Of Canada "Geogaddi" (Warp Records)--I picked this up because their name was being dropped left and right by the press and some "big name" bands. I prepared to be underwhelmed by it--it can't be good when the pomo hipsters are falling over themselves to name-drop something. And...it sounded *very* strange at first, parts of it still do (that weird "woman singing" sample in "Dawn Chorus"), but overall these two Scottish lads *have* in fact, created their own little niche in the techno world with a unique sound. Yeah, some of the beats are pretty standard..but the drones and samples they scatter around those beats are dream-like, psychedelic and foreboding all at once--"Gyroscope", my favorite track, is essentially just a skittering beat and what sound like harmonium drones--it's eerie and beautiful, like being alone at a lake at night. They also are very *slowed-down*, unlike most of the stuff on Warp (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher)--where clattering, hyper-fast beats and keyboard "squiggles" are the rage. I would recommend this disc to any electonica fan--it's different from just about anything you've heard. Can't wait for their next one!

Beck "Sea Change" (DGC Records)--I know, I know..it's Beck...I honestly didn't think I would like this one as much as I do. I liked "Midnite Vultures" when it came out--but I rarely listen to it now--same with "Mutations"--I wasn't even sure I would bother, I figured he's pretty much done. I waited on this one for a long time--and finally picked it up a few weeks ago. I gotta say it stunned me--he's definitely learned a few things in the past couple of years (it can't be from Scientology, though--yuck!). The opener, "The Golden Age", is one of the best tunes he's ever written and is one of those great "end-of-the-day" songs for cold lampin' at home. But the rest doesn't disappoint, either--the Serge Gainsbourg string arrangement on "Paper Tiger", the sad "indie-country" of "Lost Cause" and the Nick Drake-hommage of "Sunday Sun" (does anyone else hear "River Man" in that one?). Still genre-hopping, but reigning in the excess..that's what this one is all about--and it works. Plus, touring with The Flaming Lips works in his favour too.

There they are!! Alright--I'll be back in the next post with my "almost made it" list--have some Happy Holidays--if I don't post before then!!