Tuesday, May 31, 2011

YouTube of the day

"The Bottle", by Gil Scott-Heron.

A sad end to a sad life. I read a New Yorker profile of the man last year. He still had dreams and ambitions, but he also couldn't move too far from his crack pipe. I can't recall any other New Yorker profile where the subject had a crack pipe in his living room. Drugs might screw you up, but if it is the music industry that hooks you on those drugs, what (or who) is really doing the screwing?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Song of the day

"Evergreen", by John Foxx And The Maths.

In which John Foxx, who has been quietly making records for much of the time since he disappeared from the scene in the mid-80s, teams up with a guy calling himself Benge (not to be confused with the similarly named Benga, dubstep artist; nor, presumably, with Mrs Robert Wyatt), who seems to have accumulated an arsenal of what would appear to be called "vintage" analog synths, and produced an album that sits quite nicely, in terms of mood and, uh, aesthetic as much as actual sounds (and how gorgeous those actual sounds are), between "Metamatic"'s steely futuristic pop and the lush maximalism of "The Garden". Rejoice.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bob Dylan: scaring the children since 1961

As well as being the year of Bob's seventieth birthday, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary, give or take, of his emergence onto, uh, "the scene".

But kids' music?

And yet here he is, doing "This Old Man" (right click etc to download; normal click to listen), taken from a Disney compilation released to raise money for children with AIDS. A worthy cause, indeed, but I'm not entirely sure Dylan's gravel-throated growling, and wailing harmonica, entirely suited the (presumed) target audience.

The Wiggles he ain't.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy seventieth birthday, Bob

"Dylan's music is not inspired. His melodies and arrangements are derivative, and his one technical accomplishment, a vivacious, evocative harmonica, does not approach the virtuosity of a Sonny Terry. His strength as a musician is his formidable eclecticism combined with a talent for choosing the right music to go with a given lyric. The result is a unity of sound and word that eludes most of his imitators."

-- Ellen Willis, from "Dylan", published in Cheetah magazine, 1967.

(Well, it was either run with that quote or be the seventy thousandth blog to link to a YouTube clip of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" or "Not Dark Yet".)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Song of the day

"Satellite (The Bug Remix)", by The Kills.

I don't know squiddly-did about The Kills, but I have a hunch the original sounds very little like this. The Bug, aka Kevin Martin, has been pushing the boundaries of sound, often in several directions at once, for as long as I can remember. Here, he sends the concept of dub out somewhere towards the stratosphere. Bass is the place.

Hands up anyone who can hear elements of "Fisherman", by The Congos, buried in the mix.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

YouTube of the day

"Look Back In Anger", by David Bowie.

I can't recall ever having seen this video before.

The thing that makes this song transcendent, aside from the very sprightly drumming, is the guitar riff that comes in just before the half way mark. Sublime.

2011 is not 1961 - or is it?

The first thing that strikes you about this advertisement is how it could have been written in 2011. (It, and the following two ads, actually appeared in the New Yorker magazine in May, 1961.)

The second thing that strikes you is how nice the graphic design is. (This was the era of "Mad Men".)

(Click on the pictures for bigger versions.)

When you have finished providing clean drinking water for everybody (it has only been 50 years, and we're not nearly there yet) you can take a break. Why not fly Pan Am to Rio. Or Buenos Aires. (The sound of bossa nova is in the air.)

Or take the whole family bowling. (This one does contain some text on the next page, but it's the picture, innit.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Neil Young song of the day (6)

Whether by intent or necessity (it was later revealed that at this time Neil Young was coming to terms with being the parent of a seriously disabled child; and we have some knowledge of how draining, physically and mentally, that can be) "Hawks & Doves" bears the devil's mark of "contractual obligation". Not without some justification: it was to be his final album for Reprise before jumping ship for an ill-fated run with Geffen Records. It must have come as a grave disappointment for Young's loyal fan base, or whatever of it remained, coming as it did after two albums ("Comes A Time" and "Rust Never Sleeps") that suggested that Young had pulled himself out of the malaise of the Ditch Trilogy (proved by time not to have been a malaise at all, especially so with "On The Beach", perhaps now recognised as Young's crowning achievement) and got his career back on an upward path.

It is, unequivocally, a very slight record, clocking in at barely 30 minutes, with four songs that failed to make the cut on previous albums and an entire side of seemingly tossed-off knee-slappin' hoedowns.

Yet, perhaps on account of its brevity, I find it hard to get too cranky about this record. It has a good-natured spirit, a lightness of touch, a degree of "bounce", perhaps, which makes its short playing time pass like a breeze.

There is a song called "Lost In Space" which sounds at one point like Neil is auditioning for the Franciscus Henri circuit. "The Old Homestead" occupies a quarter of the album, and amounts to a shaggy dog story (not so far away from "After The Goldrush", if you think about it) involving naked riders, telephone booths, prehistoric birds and someone or something called "the shadow" -- the kind of thing that could easily have been a fever dream brought about by too much spicy food. It may or may not include a dig at David Crosby. It does include a musical saw, an instrument that always puts me in mind of Mercury Rev's "Deserter's Songs", which is a record I am always happy to be put in mind of.

I will neatly sidestep the politics of the five songs on side two. It is not possible, though, whether you agree with the sentiments or not (assuming you can figure those sentiments out), to fail to sing heartily along with the "You Ess Ayyyyy, You Ess Ayyyyy" backing vocals on the title track (which also features one of the few appearances on the album of Young's trusty electric guitar).

Today's song, though, is the final number from the first side, "Captain Kennedy". It is very simple. Just Young and his acoustic guitar. He underplays the vocals, to the song's detriment. I would love to hear this covered by somebody like Mark Lanegan. Or Mick Harvey. I think either of them would really bring it to life.

There are roughly ten thousand people doing this song on the YouTube, but none of those people are Neil Young, and all should be avoided. They are not what I had in mind at all. Instead, you can, for a short time, download it here (right click etc).

Song of the day

"Undeadman, ReMMix by Mordant Music", by Shackleton.

Cabaret Voltaire for the 21st century.

Specifically, the Cabaret Voltaire of "2x45".

Mind you, Cabaret Voltaire were so far ahead of their time that they themselves might as well have been called "Cabaret Voltaire for the 21st Century".

In which case, what would you call this? Yesterday's tomorrow's music today? My brain hurts.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is it "irony"? Or is it just sad?

From Harper's Weekly Review:

"Two imams en route to a North Carolina conference on anti-Muslim prejudice were removed from a commercial flight because their manner of dress was making the pilot uncomfortable".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Song of the day

"Blue Star", by Seapony.

Those roads from today's music that don't lead back to Look Blue Go Purple seem to lead back to somewhere not far away from The Cat's Miaow. Which, obviously, can only be a good thing. It's just kind of funny.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Song of the day

"Mubu", by Alberto Baldan Bembo.

You are sitting in a discreet corner of a dimly lit piano bar. You are with your new friend. His name is James Bond. He is drinking a martini. His martini is shaken, not stirred. You, too, are drinking a martini. Your martini, too, is shaken but not stirred, because you are drinking with James Bond. This might well be the music playing in the background.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Song of the day

"Le Coeur au bout des Doigts", by Jacqueline Taieb.

A fine little song to get you moving on a Monday morning, and perhaps to start you thinking about the excitement machine that is Eurovision 2011, coming to a telly near you this weekend.