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.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A New Update on Old Thoughts

I've finally amassed enough bits and pieces that I feel I should update a few odd old thematic, non-band-specific posts.

I stopped to write about strange, often abrasive voices once, and there are some peculiar voices I did not mention, and one I was unfamiliar with myself, that was mentioned to me outside the comments there.

First was one I'd heard about repeatedly anyway, and then a friend told me was a perfect example of peculiar voicing after that article. I picked up a few of her albums on and around Record Store Day, and discovered that, indeed, her voice is odd, though, as is often the case with me, didn't faze me beyond recognition of its oddity: Kate Bush.

She had a huge hit with "Wuthering Heights" (which was apparently an achievement in many senses, as the first self-penned female #1 in the UK), which should make it clear enough what's odd about her voice:

It's operatic in the dramatic sense, and otherwise filled with that kind of melodrama that fits and describes her music appropriately.

One voice I forgot and managed to confuse via label association, was that of Doc Corbin Dart, whose voice I associated, incorrectly, with fellow Alternative Tentacles--label of Dead Kennedys vocalist and songwriter Jello Biafra--alums Alice Donut. As it happens, Doc--that's his real name, by the way--was actually the vocalist for the Crucifucks. Doc's real life story is bizarre, disturbing, and kind of sad, and doesn't encourage you much to like him as a human being, unless you've got a serious desire to empathize with others. His band's name was intentionally inflammatory, and was often credited with various pseudonyms on posters and in other advertisements for shows--Crucifex, Cruise Effects, even "Christmas Folks." Doc's become a shut-in, spiritual type, now calling himself 26 and avoiding swearing (referring to his own band as "Christmas Folks" at one point). This is all kind of a downer for a band that released songs like "Hinkley Had a Vision." Or maybe that's a downer itself--he wasn't kidding. And while bands like MDC exist, Doc encouraged the reality of "MDC"--which stands for millions of dead cops, amongst other things, but that one in particular--out of a deranged need for personal conflict and inconsolable hatred. But let's nevermind all that unpleasantness--both his attitudes and the reasons for them--and listen to "Hinkley Had a Vision," and just make sure you hold out for the instrumental drop out behind Doc's voice and the repetition of the song title, to capture exactly why I bring Doc up in this context (let me note: I find his voice infectious in a good way, as bizarre as that sounds):

One of the other ideas I had that turned to a post was the idea of artists who came back and covered themselves after breaking up or forming bands, moving from solo to band or vice versa. Examples abound, but there are only handfuls I know, realize or notice. I've seen two in my recent musical meanderings, though, enough to feel like updating the idea. I mentioned recently the fact that Ryan Adams brought on a band called the Cardinals after he'd both left Whiskeytown and released a few solo records, and that he'd re-recorded the song "This Is It" with the Cardinals. Well, indeed he did, and it's a big departure from the Rock N Roll version of the song.

Here is the original incarnation:

And here, with the Cardinals added, is the newer recording:
He has dropped the distortion, slowed the tempo, filled out the band and the intro, more free, less staccato, and his voice holds longer, pinching less, and the song itself sounds a lot more sad.

The one that actually sparked me to finish this post is an easy one, for me at least. I was listening to my newly acquired copy of the super-elusive and often expensive out-of-print E solo album, Broken Toy Shop, but this time with the ears of someone who has worn down every Eels song he could find in the past decade. Now, Mark Oliver Everett was one of many "Marks" in his circle of friends as a child, became "Mark E." as a result, and eventually just "E" which is the name under which he released his first two solo albums, A Man Called E and Broken Toy Shop, before forming Eels and releasing their debut Beautiful Freak. He's one of the artists still prone to write b-sides (indeed, he wrote a song called "I Write the B-Sides," which was the source of the lyric for my post on b-sides) and otherwise include tracks not on albums as b-sides, including bits and pieces of recording sessions for radio over the years. Eels released the single "Rags to Rags" off their debut and included an E solo song from a BBC recording session as a b-side to that disc. Unfortunately, no one has seen fit to readily upload a copy of that version of the song, so I can only link you to the original version of "Manchester Girl":

The BBC recording comes from January 1997 (broadcast in February), after Eels had been formed, and its naturally stripped down--odd, one might think, for a band to be stripped-down from a solo artist, but it relates to production more than instruementation--with just E on piano and vocals, making the song just a bit more forlorn and sad, with a slightly sour harmonized chorus. It was a bit surreal, as I was listening to an E album I'd barely ever listened to and heard something distinctly familiar, but half-alien. There's still a horn on it, though I'm not skilled enough to name what kind--though it's low enough that my instinct says French Horn.

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