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

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Arrrrrrrgh! Half of my post was erased yesterday..so I'll try and continue where I left off. Where was I? Oh yes, The Mars Volta. They combine a progressive element (odd time signatures, extended jams) with punk hallmarks (buzzsaw guitars, faster tempos)--and they pull it off fairly well--several of the tracks are over six minutes, but still retain a sense of urgency and straight-ahead riffing. The vocals have a proggy quality about them and even at times, remind me of (hipsters, cover your eyes) Freddie Mercury's mid-70s operatics with Queen. The tunes feature strange lyrics, which make you scratch your head and wonder what they're on about..much like Jon Anderson's or Peter Gabriel's sprawling themes. It's a bit difficult what to make of this "pronk" stuff--but I credit them with trying something novel amongst all the copycat bands around. Over-three-minute punk tracks haven't been attempted, in my knowledge, since Television's Marquee Moon record in 1977.

I was checking out the latest issue of Under The Radar magazine, and they had a feature on the "shoegazer" genre--you know, bands from England..usually one-word band names with a vowel (as my man C-Dog used to say)...Ride, Lush...and others, like Chapterhouse and Slowdive--and of course, the kings (and queens) of 'em all, My Bloody Valentine. At the end of the feature was a section which (a bit dubiously) pointed out some "shoegazer revival bands" (their words). One group caught my attention, Longwave, from New York City--though I mistook them for an English band. On a whim, I decided to pick up their full-length debut, The Strangest Things. The record is decent, but not the psychedelic, dizzying, swirly trip that I expected. They do offer a shoegaze-type atmosphere on some tracks, like the album opener, Wake Me When It's Over and The Ghosts Around You, but others sound like The Strokes coming down off of a mescaline and whiskey binge, a little more trippy, a little less sleazy--but The Strokes nonetheless. This isn't surprising, considering Longwave are from New York--and they even thank The Strokes in their liner notes--still, it gives "The Strangest Things" a bit of a schizoid feel, like they couldn't decide if they were a neo-sleaze band or disciples of Kevin Shields. The production is crisp, thanks to Dave Fridmann (Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, The Delgados), so it's a good-sounding record, but hopefully they'll resolve the Jekyll & Hyde direction of the group by the next one. They've got potential to beat the sophomore slump and hone their sound at the same time. For now, though, while not exactly spearheading a shoegazer revival, Longwave have a pretty credible debut on their hands.

Speaking of the mighty M.B.V., Pitchfork Media is reporting that leader Kevin Shields, drummer Colm O'Coisoig (fresh from his stint working with Hope Sandoval) and guitarist/singer Bilinda Butcher have got back together to finish tracks from their magnum opus, 1991's Loveless. Bassist Debbie Goodge has declined to join the three. Supposedly, they shelved five tracks because of the mammoth recording schedule and never returned to finish them when the band all but disintegrated after the tour to support the album. According to the story, there is an M.B.V. boxed set due at the end of the year, where an expanded Glider EP will include the five unreleased tracks. Kevin Shields has also scored an upcoming Bill Murray film--and an M.B.V. track is included on the soundtrack also. Is this the long-awaited reunion? Could be...I still wouldn't hold my breath...

I have a copy of the expanded Electric Warrior, the seminal glam/psych/folk 1971 album by T. Rex, released a few months ago by Rhino Records and Reprise Records (T. Rex's original U.S. distributor). This edition includes several bonus tracks, including a radio interview that leader Marc Bolan did to promote "Electric Warrior" and most of the singles from that era ("Hot Love", "Woodland Rock"). The packaging is excellent--and they've even included a miniature replica of the poster of Bolan that was issued with the first pressing of the L.P. in '71..and the psychedelic graphics of Bolan and bandmate Mickey Finn, by famed design group Hipgnosis. The re-master job is great, and easily surpasses the original CD issue by Warner Brothers from the early 90s. And the music? "Electric Warrior" was the sixth full-length effort from Bolan & Co. and the third with Finn on board (Steve 'Peregrin' Took had left after 1969's "Unicorn"). It was the first in which Bolan plugged in with his Strats and Les Pauls and really "went electric" with the group. It had an impact with fans in England, and within a couple of months of the record's release, they were one of the top bands in their native country. In fact, the English music press had got to calling them "the first superstars of the 70s". "Electric Warrior" contains Bolan's best tunes ever...and they influenced a lot of bands even twenty years later...the rollicking Jeepster, the gentle Girl, the funky and vaguely psychedelic Planet Queen..and of course, the perennial favorites Bang A Gong (Get It On) and Cosmic Dancer. Unfortunately, Bolan would never equal "Electric Warrior" in both scope and quality--he got close with 1972's The Slider...but after, he dissolved the band and moved to the U.S., and his records failed to capture the charm and beauty of "Warrior"--Bolan merely wrote his odd lyrics and turned the volume up more on albums like "Bolan's Zip Gun" and "Dandy In The Underworld", and tragically died in 1977, while being energized out of his doldrums by the punk bands making an impact at that time. Still, this re-issue shows T. Rex at their high-water mark, when they could do no wrong.

...and finally, next week is the release of the brand-new Super Furry Animals record, Phantom Power (also the name of a Tragically Hip album from a few years ago)--I should be getting a copy courtesy of My Dearest Flaming Pixie, so I can review that when it arrives---"Thanks" to Pixie for that!! O.K., musos--I'll be back soon, got tons of more stuff to get to--keep 'em spinnin!!