Friday, December 26, 2008

Things I wish I'd known when I was 10 but that I only learned when I was 44

That you can substitute the words "Sorbolene cream" when singing "Glycerine Queen" by Suzi Quatro.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One more Filmworks before we go

In 2008 John Zorn released another three, yes three, additions to the Filmworks series. This puts me a little bit on the back foot given my recent rate of progress. Although I'm hardly in the same situation of Tom Ewing over on Popular, or Marcello Carlin on Then Play Long, working their way towards covering every UK number one single and album respectively, projects which require a fair amount of running just to stand still.

Anyway, "The Protocols of Zion" is number XV in Zorn's collected soundtrack work, and in its own way is as good a soundtrack album as you could wish for. It perhaps doesn't work as well as some others in the series as background listening on its own terms, but it is certainly evocative. Evocative of exactly what I'm not so sure, but I'm seeing parched brown landscapes, shimmering heat haze, and Arabs and Israelis lobbing things at each other. There is a lot of space between the notes, Zorn tinkles an electric piano to nice effect, and two percussionists really work on creating an atmosphere.

Actually, more so than with any other of the series so far, this one makes me want to see the film for which it was made. In that regard, it puts me in mind of Jonny Greenwood's amazing score for "Let There Be Blood", which is like no film music I have ever heard; in fact Greenwood's score is not always necessarily recognisable as music, but it does an extraordinary job of enhancing the visual element of that remarkable movie.

And for those who don't see John Zorn as a man with much of a sense of humour (the same mistake that many people make with Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen), note his cheeky use of the Jew's harp in a track called "Jew Watcher", which you can't help but listen to with a wry smile on your face. At least I can't.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Song of the day

"That's All For Anyone", by Fleetwood Mac. Of all the jaw-dropping moments on Fleetwood Mac's 1979 avant pop masterpiece "Tusk", none is more surprising, or more sublime, than "That's All For Anyone", buried as it is in the middle of the second of the double-album's four sides. There can be few moments in popular music more striking than this shimmering abstract-impressionist creation. What particularly stands out, in 2008, is the way it positively reeks (in a good way) of "Pet Sounds". My memory may be faulty, but I don't think anybody - and I mean anybody - was listening to "Pet Sounds" in 1979, and yet here were Fleetwood Mac, absorbing all of its many lessons and filtering them through into this song. And it's only one of twenty songs on the album. "Tusk". Is there anything it can't do?

Scientific research of the day

Aside from the fact that somebody should shoot the sub-editor responsible for the dreadful headline, this article demonstrates the importance of funding scientists to do what scientists do.

Presumably any self-respecting marine beastie would choose "Merry Christmas Everybody", by Slade. I will be very disappointed if that is not the case.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Song of the day

"How Soon Is Now?", by t.A.T.u.

Man, this operates on so many levels of greatness that I cannot even begin to enumerate them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hitchcock reference of the day

Crows learn to use vending machines. This just goes to show that I am not anthropomorphising when I see raw intelligence staring at me from those eyes. The birds! The birds!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Launch me into space

On the other hand, if I was going to put together a list of my favourite songs from 08, which again I'm not, top of the list by some distance would be "Happy House", by The Juan Maclean, which is 13 minutes of non-stop cheerfulness that you can also dance to. The house-music genre is, for me, the one that got away. Stuck in Leongatha, in days of old (before the internet), what could we possibly have known about it, busy as we were hunting down limited-edition seven-inch singles and home-made cassette recordings. (Sigh.) Hence the catch-cry from those days, "What the bleep is acid house?"

Which is to say, there is a lot of history in this record which I just don't understand. But there is also a lot to like regardless. The electric piano motif, which appears and disappears all too soon, is priceless. Likewise the arpeggiating something-or-other that kicks in at some point around the ten-minute mark and leads the song towards the exit door. The song's dynamic is perfect: it builds, it releases, it builds again, and so on. Thirteen minutes is over almost before it has begun. This was not a year in which everything DFA touched turned to gold. Its days as leader of the pack are probably behind it. Which, if anything, makes this instant classic all the more surprising. I thought I was waiting for the sequel to Black Leotard Front's sublime "Casual Friday". In fact, I was waiting for this.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two old guys hunched over their guitars

Old guy number one: Marc Ribot. Doing a song other old guys might recognise.

Old guy number two: Neil Young. Behind a lot of hair. On the BBC. In 1971. Long before he became an old guy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Song of the day

"Auntie's Lock/Infinitum", by Flying Lotus.

Young Marble Giants. Julee Cruise's ground-breaking work with Angelo Badalamenti. "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" by Virginia Astley. If these be a part of your musical stock in trade, you might just be stopped in your tracks by this totally gorgeous piece of musical driftwood, washing up at the tail end of an album ("Los Angeles") that, as a whole, requires repeated listening to fully reveal its charms (I'm not quite there yet), and certainly doesn't lead you to expect that it will end like this. In other words, I have a feeling Marcello Carlin would have words to say about this track. I should also thank SF-J (yet again) for alerting me to a record I might not otherwise have pursued (although its being on Warp might just have nudged it into my field of vision).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Come home Go Home

It's the darnedest thing. Last night, for the first time in way too long, I spent a while yakking on the phone with my man Darren. Amongst the items for discussion was the seeming disappearance, based on seven long months of silence, of the mash-up king, Mark Vidler. And what to you know, waiting in my email in-box (and, presumably, in Darren's too) this morning was a Christmas update from the man himself, offering up another in his series of Christmas-themed mash-ups and with a promise of more goodies to come in the new year. I tell ya, there ought to be a university degree in coincidence-ology.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ask and you shall receive

Thanks, Jon.

(Background: I had mentioned to Jon that one of my musical blind spots was the Mekons. I have to say, the chosen song, "Ghosts of American Astronauts", is a long way from my uneducated idea of what the Mekons sound like (something kinda punk/country, if you must know), but, man, what a beautiful song. How did he know to choose that one ... or are they all like that? (Be still my beating heart.))

(Aside: Jon is moving to RMIT's architecture faculty, or the 21st century equivalent thereof. If any of Adrienne's old crew still have a foothold there, they should welcome him on his imminent arrival.)

Songs from Darren, number ten: "Miss You", by The Rolling Stones

Growing up, I struggled to place the Rolling Stones. I knew they did songs with rude words, which was pretty cool, and I knew they did songs like “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar”, which were easy to like. But how to explain “Miss You”? That piece I wrote a while ago about my brief dalliance with smoking? I’m pretty sure this song was a part of the soundtrack to that time. Weary’s brother Tony had some Stones albums: “Some Girls” in particular comes to mind. I had this sense that, unlike much of the music I was then “into” (e.g. Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Supertramp), the Rolling Stones were loose and unclean (one look at photos of Keef would surely have confirmed that), and there was a certain amount of excitement that went with that.

I was unable to categorise “Miss You”, which, although it was fairly obviously a Rolling Stones song, found itself firmly in the column marked “disco”. Which, I suppose, it was, or at least some idea of disco informed its basic template. It would have sat as comfortably on “Soul Train” as Bowie’s “Golden Years” or “Fame” did, for example. But for a long time I was confused: probably until it finally dawned on me that the Rolling Stones had become irrelevant, and that “Miss You” might have been the point in their career when they started to see the writing on the wall and vainly attempted to do something about it, artistically, before deciding it was better for all concerned if they just coasted instead, all the way to the bank.

What do I hear in 2008? “Miss You” as the perfect showcase for Charlie Watts’ no-frills, precision drumming. (We love Charlie Watts at our house.) Archetypal Keith Richards guitar (if a bit Pablo Cruise in one or two places). Fluid and slippery. Plus, how many disco songs do you know that include a bluesy harmonica solo?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Don't Look Back

If I was going to put together a list of my favourite albums of this year, which I'm not, it should be pretty obvious to all of you that "Third", by Portishead, would be so far ahead of anything else that it might as well occupy a list of its own. And I suspect I won't be as far out of step with the blogniscenti as I was last year with "Sky Blue Sky" (curse you, Wilco hataz, for being unable to listen to that record without dragging yr own baggage along with you). At least I hope not. "Third" is not so much a record as an event. It draws you into its welcoming but claustrophobic soundworld so completely that you cannot escape from it (not that you would want to) until the last note has run its course. The Cocteau Twins used to be capable of the same thing. And then "Loveless" came along and wrote its own rule book.

But in throwing out the year-end list-bathwater, it would be a shame in the process to lose sight of "The Monstrous Surplus" (oh boy, what an ironic title that turned out to be), by Pluramon, which actually works in a similar way to "Third". It may not have been as jaw-dropping in immediate effect, but it is a record to live with over a long period of time. Listening to it again this afternoon, I was struck by another similarity: it, too, is a strongly guitar-centric record within (loosely) a genre that is not known for its embrace of big and/or dirty guitars. There are bits if the record that I still don't "get", but it should only be listened to in its entirety so I'm sure the getting will come, sooner or later.

I have mentioned before how "Turn In", the first song, evokes (for me, anyway) the classic Dunedin sound. Another thing that chose to strike me today is that the second song, "Border", could almost be the work of The Church, not, I suspect, an obvious comparison: a comparison so tenuous, in fact, that it probably exists only in my imagination. If you only overlook one record this year, don't make it this one.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

YouTube of the day

Following on from yesterday's entry, here is some more dubstep for ya. Your tinny PC speakers won't do justice to the crucial low end, but a good pair of headphones might help with that. I'm not sure what the makers of the clip have against light globes. Mind you, they all look like they would use a lot of electricity, so maybe it's a statement about global warming. (It also looks stunning.)

Link, as is so often the case, courtesy the estimable (whatever that means) SF-J.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Song of the day

"Poison Dart", by The Bug. Newness in music is not something that comes along every day: I mean genuine newness, something where you can honestly say, "Man, where is this shit coming from?". If you haven't heard the form of music known (loosely: purists look away now) as dubstep, you should be prepared for a shock. It is music, Jim, but not as we know it.

"Poison Dart" is a kick to the head. Or the solar plexus. The bass disables your central nervous system. The rhythm, which has clear antecedents in seventies dub reggae, causes your thus disabled limbs to twitch pathetically as you attempt, in vain, to get yr groove on. The lyric, which contains that glorious word "bumberclaat", is the least of your worries.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Kelly Watch The Stars

Yesterday I toyed with the idea of posting Cortney Tidwell's "Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan Pearson's Objects In Space Remix)" as a Song of the Day. (It's actually one of my favourite songs of the year, even if it did come out in 2007.) But I ran out of time.

Then by sheer coincidence Adrienne dragged the boys and me out into the backyard last night to have a look at the night sky, which featured the crescent moon and two planets doing a convincing impersonation of a Smiley Face. It was an impressive sight. (We had to endure jokes from the boys about Uranus, but hey, they're ten and eight years old, what can you do?)

But don't take my word for it. Head over to Bob's Place to have a look at actual photographs. And while you're there, have a look around at some of the wonderful Australian music Bob is happy to share with you. (Bob is also your One Stop Shop for information relating to the forthcoming Laughing Clowns tour.) In fact, if he would only put up "Pitt Street Farmers" by The Reels, I would seriously consider asking him to marry me. If, like, we were living in some strange hybrid of Utah and Annie Proulx's Wyoming.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Plastic Passion

In an attempt to convince ourselves that things are back to normal (a misnomer, this, as the pieces can never be put back as they were; things will, as they always do, return to some kind of normalcy, but it will be a new normal), we visited the DVD store, fluffed up our beanbag chairs, resurrected Vinyl Class, and watched "Lars and the Real Girl". I must have misread the reviews of this, as my expectations weren't high. But in fact it is a wonderful little film, a quiet celebration of the ordinary.

I swear, though, that the day after watching it, when I wandered into the National Library cafe for my morning fix (coffee and the New Yorker), there standing against the opposite wall waiting for her take-away coffee was the living embodiment of Lars's artificial friend. The hair was exact. The face was exact. Everything, in fact, was in its right place. Except, obviously, in the bosom department; nobody in the real world has bosoms that sit quite the way Lars's plastic pal's do (which is probably a good thing; as Billy Connolly said in a different context, you could take somebody's eye out with those). I looked away and she was gone. Was she ever there at all?