Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recommendations: I Hate You, Rob Crow; Karate by Kennedy; Glances at Björk and Unexpected Pumpkins Riffing

I'm still settling on format here, so bear with me. There's something a bit stilted about my usual approach--take a band, write something, that makes it more of an "event" to sit down and write it, which may not be the most appropriate approach to take to something like a blog. I'm still working this out, as its only been about a month, after all. I'll still take that approach toward whatever band ends up tops in my little poll (and possibly or even probably the rest of them there, eventually), but for now this less formal recollection seems it may be appropriate.

I've actually got a handful of recommended listens hanging around, which I normally just let pass by. Well, not exactly true, I've always listened to the recommendations people have given me. That is, the recommendations themselves. I'm often feeling so at a loss with the artists I've taken up on my own that taking time from "getting to know" Depeche Mode or Joy Division or New Order or The Church or Robyn Hitchcock seems wrong and makes me feel "behind," so the name ends up filed away for future reference.

Sometimes, of course, this leaves me in a place like yesterday, where, wandering around, I find Drive Like Jehu's Yank Crime, and can't figure out why the name is imprinted in my brain so strongly. As I'm at CD Alley, I go to ask who's working if they can tell me something. Luckily, it's Alison (I know her name now, as I decided to ask for the purposes of writing here!) and this is--or was, anyway--her area. She's always been enthusiastic about the post punk and post hardcore bands I ask about, which has been terribly helpful. Drive Like Jehu, she says, well, Yank Crime was one of her all time top albums once upon a time, and yes, it makes sense for me to associate them mentally with Jawbox. It's easy when my source of information is conveniently placed at the time one of these things comes back up, and, once in a great while, someone might (possibly) get a text from me while I'm out, asking for recollections on why I'd know a band's name. Usually Brian suffers this, alongside requests to do bits of research on bands we are both ignorant of. Bless his heart. He's like my portable internet, since I don't have a smartphone. Lots more personal, too--and able to summarize or collate data helpfully!

Anyway--that's how recommendations typically work with me. You can throw me a song, an album, an artist, and usually that's what happens (of course, that's not the best example--it was actually, I realized, recommending Drive Like Jehu to me). Sometimes I will go ahead and listen. Sometimes I will listen a few times deliberately, and the newness will prevent me from forming an opinion, but a mental link will be established and hooks develop when I stumble across it by accident later.

Alongside that, Rob Crow of Pinback was thrown at me, which was funny, because as I stared at Yank Crime attempting to make sense of it, I opened it (it was a used copy) and saw, "Rob Crow sings 'Suit Up!'" I went to to get that link above, and I noticed the Crow solo stuff I'd been listening to--B-sides from "I Hate You, Rob Crow" and "Up," the singles from Living Well--and found that had not yet had "Crow, Rob" corrected to "Rob Crow," so it had the ugly "Don't misspell stuff in your MP3s' ID3 tags" image up for the non-existent "Crow, Rob," which led me to put in my vote for association (whilst grumbling that my tag was not, in fact, incorrect, but formatted for proper alphabetization, and I ought not to be associated with people who simply can't be bothered to spell). Anyway, I ended up at Rob Crow's Page on and the current high-voted image is this:

Yeah, it's him on the record. Fun set of coincidences.

I couldn't do justice to Rob if I tried (he is involved in at least 15 bands as well as his solo work), and I love Pinback too much to shoehorn them in here, so perhaps I'll get around to that some other time. But here's the first single I was listening to, for some reference:

Drive Like Jehu is still processing for me, as they are very densely, aggressively packed and frenetic:

That stuff always takes me a little while to break apart and hear "correctly." The melody is often lost to me at first then gradually resolves itself (the same thing happened with one of my favourite ever death metal bands--Immolation, who are similarly tightly packed).

If you're reading this and curious about some recommendations you've made, I've got them bookmarked in various fashions, or written down (or as draft entries), so, fret not. I was given a more bite-sized request in the link to this song:

Why yes, he does look like a cross between John Denver and Warren Zevon, with a pinch of "disco sex offender."

I think the request may have been at least partly in jest, but I don't care much (I can't tell with the source on occasion, if I'm totally honest. And sometimes I suspect that's the point.) as I enjoy the song anyway. Despite the look, there's no "pea-soup" to full-on disco-fy this song, but it's a bit funky, and has some of my favourite keyboard songs (think Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious") and some smoked glass sound of 70s production, and feels like somehow it could have wandered out of the 70s, though it's actually only six years old.

The lyrics are beyond ridiculous, and likely incited a good junk of the claim that this was (or should be) THE song of the summer, a claim which I'm happy to endorse and spread (feel free to do the same, as you know you want this to be the song of the summer). But they hit that sweet spot for me, where the ridiculousness doesn't cross into the line of seeming to lean to heavily on the humour or the joke, enough that the song isn't bogged down by its own winking and nudging. I got worn out on Zappa's work at one point for this reason, at least the vocal stuff from the late 70s, because I wanted to hear that music but not the endless raunchy sex jokes.

In the course of looking into who the hell "Kennedy" is, I found out he is "Jack Kennedy," and was briefly a member of the Silversun Pickups. That's a name I hear periodically, but get confused a lot, as I often do with band names I hear but associate nothing with. I think it may have had a dash of the Silver Jews, sprinkled with the Silver Apples, mutating into the Apples in Stereo until I had a nebulous idea of "indie band" and nothing more. Apparently Kennedy appears in the video for the Silversun Pickups' "Lazy Eye," so I decided to check it out and keep an eye open for "the bartender":

Yes, he still has the image of a stereotypical sex offender.

I got distracted though--wow, what a catchy, pretty, neat guitar riff and melody. And a tasteful and not-too-plain drumbeat. Indeed, it started to remind me of, perhaps, "1979" or some similarly warm and soft Smashing Pumpkins song (I later noted in reviews that this is not an uncommon thought).

Somewhere in there, I was given to glance at Björk, though it's still a bit overwhelming. My affection for Aphex Twin led me to Chris Cunningham's video for "All Is Full of Love," (which I liked), long ago, as Cunningham is responsible for Aphex's most famous(/notorious) videos, and I heard that big single, her cover of "It's Oh So Quiet," which I didn't like that much. If nothing else, check out the video for the former:

I was told, newly, to look into a few songs, starting with "Bachelorette":

The instant impressions I had were that somehow a soundtrack orchestra had smashed into an intimate drum machine-backed vocal pop song, yet worked together perfectly. Somehow this gave me the idea that the song felt like a remix of a song that had no original mix, like somehow she had written a song that sounds like the "Orchestral Mix," only it doesn't have that feeling that the vocals don't fit, which sometimes plagues remixes of certain kinds (when Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has his more aggressive songs backed or mixed with lighter, airier music, it's disorienting, whether he does it or someone else does, though it does often work anyway, just with noticeable incongruity).

I'm kind of all over the place, obviously, but this was in the course of a single day, so that might give you an idea of how much and how far I bounce around, musically. And I'm stopping myself, to be honest, to keep from being ridiculously long-winded and overwhelming--so take that bit as you will.

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