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.

Friday, July 13, 2012

When Lightning Strikes and We Are Sleeping...

In case anyone is wondering where I might have been with my ramblings and random musical selections, you may note from the Last.FM widget over to the right that I have been happily continuing to listen to music, not including my vinyl and compact disc rotations (the latter being in-car listening). Mclusky's Mclusky Do Dallas, in all its vulgar glory, has occupied my turntable of late more than anything else in its white vinyl re-release form that appeared briefly in the collage of images that represented my collage of Record Store Day purchases this year. My car CD player has rotated endlessly, as it often does, based on where I am going, when and the whims of the moment.

What has interrupted my posting, however, was a recent influx and an attempt to catch up a backlog of complicated reissues.

To put this in a kind of perspective, here is an image of the purchases I've made in the last week, which is not totally out of character and should clarify any concerns about what on earth keeps me from focusing on a single release or artist to discuss them:

You can click to enlarge that sucker, and in the process see the sheer volume of stuff I just inundated myself with. For those who cannot make things out, here's a brief rundown:

  • The Garden Place - Songs by Our Friends
    A compilation of North Carolina artists from late 1998, containing non-album tracks from the likes of Whiskeytown, Portastatic, Tift Merrit, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Two Dollar Pistols. These are very local to the area I live in (actually, were, in all those cases) and a few of them are favourites--especially Whiskeytown and Two Dollar Pistols.
  • µ-Ziq - Urmur Bile Trax Volumes 1 and 2
    The more obscure side of my taste in electronic music, and the more obscure side of his work (under that alias, at least) all in one! Note: this is not an obscure artist in the electronic realms, but is to most everyone else. Sort of a limbo, in that respect.
  • ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - The Secret of Elena's Tomb
    While I've listened to "Relative Ways" from Source Tags and Codes a number of times, I've never bothered to go much further with Trail of Dead. Why, I don't know--but my friend Brian asked me about them recently, so stumbling across this for $1.00 made me shrug and figure--why not?
  • The Band/Bob Dylan - The Basement Tapes
    Reflecting my biases in the immediate, I list The Band first here. Truth be told, I know my handfuls of Dylan (my preference overall would be for the likes of "Ballad of a Thin Man"), but I own none. Take from this what you will--for me, I just don't get much of a hankering for his music too often. And, of course, plenty of it shows up through my listening to almost any other artist anyway.
  • Lou Barlow - Emoh
    The former-and-then-current-again bassist for Dinosaur Jr was pushed out at one point by the dominant force of guitarist/vocalist J. Mascis. He formed a band called Sebadoh and one called The Folk Implosion while outside Dinosaur Jr in the 1990s, as well as releasing numerous solo albums. I picked this one up on a whim. Holy cow is it good.
  •  The Birthday Party - Junkyard
    Nick Cave's original band before he went solo or formed The Bad Seeds or Grinderman, I've never gotten around to listening to them much. Heck, I've barely listened to the Bad Seeds. Notoriously noisy, vaguely abrasive and generally weird. A gothic rock connection was alleged, which I've since confirmed for myself after giving it a few listens.
  • Blood and Feathers - Curse and PraiseAnother purchase on a whim, my brain simply could not recall why this band sounded familiar, but I figured that a few decent reviews, dim memory and $1.00 meant I couldn't go too awfully wrong. After finding I liked it well enough, Wikipedia reminded me that it's actually the post-Aspera work of Aspera regular Drew Mills. Thanks, brain!
  • Cabaret Voltaire - Micro-Phonies
    I do own another Cabaret Voltaire album (Red Mecca) despite the years of their frustrating me as I attempted to find obscure and out of print works by the vaguely-smutty, often filky, generally amusing musician, toymaker, comic writer and general raconteur Voltaire. For the record, this pre-dated the regular availability of his work and stemmed from his mention in The Dark Fantastic, a biography of Clive Barker (my favourite writer and painter, both). I had no idea who or what he was ten years ago and used worrisome means to discover this. His music is now readily available to sample at his own personal YouTube channel. If you are curious, please listen there, for his sake. And then buy some of his stuff! He's one of the still-touring-still-recording musicians I listen to least likely to be drowning in money and he deserves to have some.
    But I'm getting away from the point here. Cabaret Voltaire come from the musical time frame that makes me squeal with the greatest amount of childish delight, so I'm always up for sampling their work and then sampling more to work on building a greater understanding of everything they did.
  • Echo & the Bunnymen - Porcupine and Heaven Up Here
    This actually completes my set of pre-breakup, pre-reformation Bunnymen reissues. Of course, I discovered as I broke up the bonus tracks from these last two reissues that, despite being a band that only dabbled in non-album b-sides in comparison to many bands that worked in them, Rhino decided not to include all of them with their respective albums, meaning I'm left with a need for the box set Crystal Days before I can complete even the readily-released studio tracks. Curses.
  • Erasure - I Say I Say I Say
    I can no longer remember, to be honest, whether I am supposed to be ashamed of owning this or not. I don't particularly care though: "Always," whatever one thinks of the song, has always been one I appreciate, going back to seeing its video on television repeatedly when I was younger, around '93-'94 when it was released. To discover that Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell songwriter (and member for only that album) was Vince Clarke, who is half of Erasure, was some kind of mind-blowing. Still, pretty sure these two are considered abysmally poppy, or some such drivel. Whatever!
  • GoGoGo Airheart - Rats! Sing! Sing!
    While they do have a track (a cover of "Death on Two Legs") on the Three One G compilation I've mentioned, Dynamite with a Laserbeam, I mostly just remember seeing this band's name in a lot of places over time. They were on GSL, Gold Standard Labs, the half-owned-by-them-so-no-wonder label that released The Mars Volta's first post-At the Drive-In release, Tremulant. GSL also released the first album by !!!, which I see in bargain bins way too often. C'mon, people, check your local record store's bargain bin used section: you may well find a copy of !!!'s !!!, and you should buy it, if so. I know for sure there's one lurking in CD Alley, and I'm almost positive there's one hiding in each Edward McKay out in Greensboro, NC and the Triangle. Anyway: this seemed like recommendation enough for another $1.00 purchase.
  • Hood - You Show No Emotion at All, Home Is Where It Hurts, Cold House, Singles Compiled, Compilations 1995-2002Yeah, and I'd never heard of them either. Honestly, you stick something like Singles Compiled in front of me, a 2-disc compilation of 7" tracks and unreleased tracks, tell me it's $1.00 and I'm probably going to sigh and buy it. Throw in the fact that this was a band that I quickly found was termed "post-rock," and it was a given, and I started combing back through the things I saw for more releases in that price-range, as well as giving in for the $4 Compilations, because it nudges at my weak spot for single-artist compilations I can break back apart within my digital library. I'm not at all displeased with the decision, though.
  • Love and Rockets - Love and Rockets
    Bauhaus minus Peter Murphy pretty much covers this in all the literal senses. Musically...well, actually, I don't know yet. I haven't listened to it yet. It was another $1.00 purchase, and I felt like I should put to rest the asinine "Hey, he copied the song title on purpose!" accusation leveled against Ryan Adams over "So Alive," as well as kill off a few other issues:
    I'm often left wildly confused as to which "rocket" band I'm looking at. There are far more than the three I constantly garble, but trying to remember which of them is the pre-Ubu David Thomas/pre-Dead Boys band (Rocket from the Tombs), which is the work of ex-Drive Like Jehu member John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt--yes, they got their name from the Thomas band, so my confusion is totally justified), and which one is this one. That all of them are descendants of bands I know and like just makes it all totally unhelpful. Of course, I also like Bauhaus, so I'm just plain curious about the band (which applies to the other two as well, meaning my confusion is not helped there, either).
  • Low/K. - Split
    Actually, there's no title. I never know what to do with untitled split releases. Except shake my fist in frustration. It's worse if I know and like both bands, though that's not the case here. Not to say K. is good or bad or indifferent, I just don't know them as I do (vaguely) know Low. It does mean I defiantly re-organize the artists for alphabetization purposes. I apologise, K.
  • Magazine - No Thyself
    Howard Devoto recorded a single 4-song EP (Spiral Scratch) with the Buzzcocks before he decided he wanted to do more different, experimental things and formed the band Magazine. He and Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley (co-frontman? Devoto fronted them, and then Pete and Steve Diggle shared songwriting in a Lennon/McCartney, Partridge/Moulding sort of sense, though Pete still tended to dominate, so I'm not sure) later re-united for Shelleydevoto and their album Buzzkunst (no, that's not a joke--well, not on my part), which mutated into the Buzzcocks' self-titled 2003 album. This post-reformation Magazine album actually contains some Shelley/Devoto collaborations, too, much like Devoto left songs behind with the Buzzcocks and took some co-writes from Shelley on early Magazine releases.
  • Piebald - Barely Legal/All Ages
    Piebald deserve a much longer discussion than belongs in a post like this, so I'm going to just hit on this release and what it's for for now. Piebald released five albums over their intermittent career, reaching their oft-considered apex with We Are the Only Friends That We Have about ten years ago. They jumped labels after that album and released their last two (yep, it was dead in the middle!) before breaking up literally right in front of me at a show. I mean, amicably. But I was at the last show Andrew Bonner played with them unknowingly, until they announced it. They recently re-released their earliest material via Rise Records in three volumes, each correlating to one of their first three albums and containing a ton of bonus material from EPs, compilations, demos and similar sources. I already had Volumes II and III and have been patiently planning on Volume I, but the material on it is actually contained in this release, along with a few bonus bits and pieces (like a random rant from someone about how the band sucks, though the guys are nice!) and a bit of overlap with Volume II. At a lower price and losing no liner notes, I figured the cost-savings coupled with the extra bits and bobs justified the shelving oddities that will result.
  • Paul Weller - Wild Wood
    The deluxe edition of Paul Weller's second album. A deluxe edition alone is often enough to sucker me, though I'm wary of releases like the Ozzy Diary of a Madman which has had its mastering criticized, and a bonus disc composed of...a concert, as well as similar ones: REM's early albums issued in this form, Steve Earle's Copperhead Road and so on--a single concert is not a great draw for me. I like unheard songs or unheard versions of songs or harder-to-acquire songs from compilations and b-sides! This one, though, has the stuff: b-sides and demos, though a weird and half-incomplete selection that does leave me vaguely confused. Still, it's the best way to go. Weller, of course, was in The Jam and the Style Council before going solo, and has been releasing music consistently for about thirty-five years now, give or take. I've had an eye on this release for a cheap purchase for a while.
  • Wire - IBTABA and Document & Eyewitness box set.
    I've been slowly assimilating the works of Wire over the last few months, knowing that they were considered one of the most mercurial of punk/post-punk bands, going from the rather straight-ahead approach of Pink Flag on into a recent vinyl and CD purchase I made, the thoroughly pop A Bell Is a Cup...Until It Is Struck. These are two peculiar and half-obscure releases, being a remix/live/edit album of sorts (containing material from A Bell Is a Cup) and a live album bundled with two singles, respectively. Of course, "live album" isn't fair: it's apparently a show of a bored Wire deciding to confuse the ever-loving hell out of their audience with a bizarre stage show and desconstructed songs. It has some of the most mixed reviews I've seen from a set of reviews that pretty consistently comes from fans of a band.
  • Wolf Parade - Wolf Parade and At Mount Zoomer
    A random chance listen to "This Heart's On Fire" led me to this band in the first place, and their album Apologies to the Queen Mary. I figured I'd try some more of this Modest Mouse/Isaac brock-inflected (vocally, at least) band when I saw them so cheap. Why not, especially when Brock actually appears on the former EP!
This is, in other words, why I can't focus enough to write: I'm enjoying the heck out of a ton of music new to me. This doesn't cover the stacks of music that came prior to that, the monstrous McCartney sets I got for my semi-recent birthday (McCartney, McCartney II and RAM, despite the head-shaking of my parents who saw the last one released and the disappointment that accompanied it). To say nothing of deciding to finally catch up on all of the unopened releases I had and separating out their bonus tracks, the research involved in this, stumbling into the XTC biography Chalkhills and Children (which I'm currently reading) and finding my desire to listen to them reinvigorated at the moment, a Jam biography that will likely do the same, and everything else I do with my time that isn't related to music.

Still, let me leave you with this "little" hint as to what I do intend to write on next:

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