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

Friday, January 09, 2004

O.K., a couple of weeks later--Happy New Year to those still using the Gregorian calendar, anyway...I guess I'll wrap up my 2003 stuff, seeing as it's now '04.

Biggest Disappointments

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci/Sleep/Holiday (Sanctuary Records) ~ Another band who's now on Sanctuary's roster (Ween, Spiritualized), their first full-length for their new label suspiciously sounds *exactly like their last one* ("How I Long To Feel That Summer...."). Seriously--there's a carbon-copy of just about every track on "How.. " on "Sleep/Holiday"!!!! I never thought I would say this, but I think that collectively, G.Z.M. has finally run out of ideas. It's sad to think that they hit their peak on Barafundle (from 1997), but that's the way it appears. Of course, if this is the first G.Z.M. record you've ever purchased (or d/l'ed ;) ), you'll think their folk-rock blend is mesmerising. Fans of the older, wacky psych/prog and even the "transition" records ("Gorky's 5", "Spanish Dance Troupe") will find "Sleep/Holiday" just another step into cookie-cutter album status. Wish I had just copied it from another Gorky's fan--I'd feel less cheated out of my money. If you want some choice G.Z.M.--check out the 20 compilation, also released this year on Sanctuary. It brings together some of the early EPs from '94/'95/'96 psych-prog era and it shows you how creative and willing they were to experiment in the studio.

The Polyphonic Spree/The Beginning Stages Of.... (Hollywood Records) ~ This album got so much attention in the music press (particularly in the UK)..and all the indie/chin-strokers at the Flaming Lips message board were falling over themselves praising it. I took the bait and bought the record--after a few cursory listens..I've decided it's just O.K.. Yeah, Tim DeLaughter and his forty theives have manic energy to spare, but for a band with so many members, the songs do sound a bit skeletal. There's not much going on in them, and most are based around a scrap of lyric or a simple guitar riff. They pile on so many extras, like theremins and choral arrangements, that it almost hides the tune's basic structure. There's no denying the catchiness of Soldier Girl or Light And Day, but the psychedelic pastiche/"Up With People" blend gets a bit irritating by the record's end--then you get to wade through a 36-minute drone that is mainly just an endurance test. Better luck on the next one, guys & gals.

Bubbling Under The Top Ten

Richard Thompson/The Old Kit Bag (SpinArt Records) ~ R.T. is back after his label-hop from Capitol Records a few years ago. He turns in his usual grab-bag of quality tunes and even gets his son Teddy to help out on a couple of tracks. It didn't make the Top Ten due to it's "same-y" content to the last bunch of Thompson releases, but even a run-of-the-mill R.T. record is better than 90% of the shite out there--and he destroys anything being put out by his contemporaries (exceptions being Billy Bragg and maybe Robert Wyatt). He always surpasses even his old band, Fairport Convention, who're still dropping their annual offering as well, I couldn't tell you how their recent stuff is--I can't be bothered to listen to anything past 1975. Richard even found time to duet with his former wife, Linda, on her underrated Fashionably Late record from 2002. It's good to have him back.

Yo La Tengo/Summer Sun (Matador Records) ~ This one falls into the same catagory as the Thompson album...the usual quality release from Yo La Tengo--but that's just it, they're not treading any new ground here, just turning in another set of heavenly ambient Y.L.T. tunes which they'll rock out more at their live shows. I don't have a problem with that at all...but it doesn't guarantee them a Top Ten spot. This one's for Tengo fanatics only--everyone else will fall asleep to it.

Best Live Show Of 2003

I actually only caught one show this year--it just happened to be Carling Weekend, or The Reading Festival, a three-day cavalcade of bands playing on a main stage and three other tents in Reading, England. My full review is in the archives for August 2003...but my favourite sets were:

1.) Elbow - BBC Radio One Tent
2.) The Mars Volta - BBC Radio One Tent
3.) Keane - Carling Tent
4.) Billy Bragg - Carling Tent
5.) Mull Historical Society - BBC Radio One Tent
6.) Grandaddy - BBC Radio One Tent
7.) Doves - Main Stage
8.) Primal Scream (with Kevin Shields) - Main Stage
9.) The Libertines - Main Stage
10.) Good Charlotte -Main Stage (Ha Ha Ha--I keed, I keed)