C’est Rien de Faust

I owned this album for 15 years and never played it.  I guess I was so excited to find a Faust record at the local shop that I didn’t care it was one I didn’t really like. I’ll like someday, I thought. Well today was not that day.

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It was supposed to be the Summer of George…

Here’s what I really dig about George Clanton’s sound: he makes records that sounds like the 90’s as you remember it, not how it actually was. I think we’ve all had the experience of re-listening to something you loved as a kid and realizing that yeah, it brings back some memories, but by and large it doesn’t bring back the feeling…you know, the feeling of being totally in awe of say, Mark McGrath. My God, he’s just got so many talents!! It’s similar to say those dreams you get where you’re back in high school, except it’s current you, not 2004 you, and in fact all your classmates kinda look like they’re in their 30s as well. Because such is the state of the universe, you can never go back, in fact when I read some of the old stuff I wrote back in the day or even browse a high school yearbook my takeaway is that I’m looking at a different person entirely. It’s you, but it’s not you.

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The Last Hippie

I don’t have too much left to say about the Silver Apples. I wrote pretty extensively about them three years ago, one of the few times on Critter Jams that I’ve just covered a band’s entire catalogue. But the news of Simeon Coxe’s passing inspired me to give them another listen last night, since I’d recently bought the Jackpot reissue of their debut, in part because I loved the cover and thought it suitable for framing. Of course I consider the music to be monumentally important as well, a cool “what if?” sorta thing. Every time I play it I feel like I’ve been taken to an alternate history of the late 60’s. To quote “Macho Man” Randy Savage: “The past, the present, and the future, all at one time”. Though the sounds themselves were modern in a pop context, the “Simeon” itself was built mostly out of old junky electronic equipment, the same sort of sounds you’d hear in a movie like Ice Station Zebra. The songwriting was very 60’s, particularly in combination with Simeon himself, who even in his twenties sounded like a wizened old wizard.

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If I only could deceive you

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I never noticed how extreme the dynamic shifts were on this album until I listened to it in a setting where the volume knob wasn’t within arm’s reach. My receiver is about 20 feet away from where I usually sit so it’s kind of important to find the right volume off the bat. With Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, there is no right volume. The album is designed to trick you into cranking up the quiet sections so that the loud bits take your head off. The album starts with a few minutes of gentle percussion and violin, so quiet you’ll almost certainly have to crank the volume, before whacking you over the head with a wicked devil riff, straight from the belly of Satan himself. “The Talking Drum” starts quiet and gradually increases in volume (ending with a screeching blast of noise), but if you still have the knob set to where it was on “Easy Money” then the first few minutes of it are going to be basically inaudible.

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The Good Cops

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I can’t remember buying these but somehow I wound up with all 5 Police LPs. I know at some point I bought up anything I ever liked at some point or was remotely interested in, so long as it was $3 or less. That’s how I ended up with a bunch of albums by Steely Dan and The Who that I’ve never actually listened to. The Police though are more than a band I just liked at some point, they were my first favorite band, which was rough because my generation generally knows Sting as the tantric sex guy who wrote a lot of those songs from the grocery store. It was the stuff your parents listened to and there are few things in life less cool than that. But you like what you like and when you’re young you develop weird, kinda unhealthy obsessions with things. I spent entire summers reading books and listening to these CDs. I might have picked apart their music more than they did when writing it. Continue reading

The Leader of the Starry Skies

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Woke up this morning to the news that Tim Smith has passed on at the age of 59.  Horrible news, though at the same time it comes with a slight bit of relief, for Tim has been living the last 12 years in an incapacitated state, his body paralyzed from a stroke he suffered while attending a show.  Which is all the more tragic because this was the period where Cardiacs’ music really started to take hold.  When I got into them it was 2005 and it seemed like nobody really knew who they were, outside of the six or seven zealous fans who spoke of the band with a religious-like fervor, looking for anyone with eclectic taste and asking them “do you have a minute to speak about Cardiacs?”  That’s how they got me, though it was sorta by luck.  I downloaded the MP3s that were sent to me and promptly forgot about them, until one day I was listening to a track by Captain Lou Albano (thanks Neil C.) and the next tune up was “In a City Lining”.  My reaction was something like, “hey, this is pretty nice…wait what is going on here?  Are you fucking kidding me??”  By nightfall I told myself that I had found my new favorite band.  I posted about them at length on a message board I was active on…only to get a response of “this is the band I messaged you about months ago, you idiot!”  Oops!!  Well now that you mention it, I do remember the message.  Something about “Van der Graaf Generator and XTC and Gentle Giant and Devo on LSD”.  And I remember thinking “he’s clearly overselling this group”.  Turns out he was not.

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Lincoln

I ordered this LP right before the quarantine started. It just arrived a couple of weeks ago. For those of you reading from the future, shipping times for anything you ordered in March 2020 were really wacky. Four months later, there are still things I’m waiting on. Hope we have a vaccine by now! Anyway, I don’t really mind the wait, it’s not like I was just dying to hear this album on vinyl. To be honest both the CD and the record don’t sound a whole lot different from the MP3s I downloaded from Napster 20 years ago. But I’ve always wanted to get TMBG’s early stuff on vinyl because I listened to it so much as a teenager. When I started record collecting I always thought of their first couple records – released in ’86 and ’88, so you know they were pressed on wax – as sort of a holy grail.  This was before vinyl really had a resurgence so I never imagined they’d be reissued.

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The Moon and Antarctica, 20 years on

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This is the only album I’ve ever had stolen from me. In college one of my roommates threw a party and a couple of dudes started thumbing through my record collection. “Moody Blues…my Dad has this one”, one of ’em said. Maybe they were mocking me. I don’t know. Anyway the next day I notice my Modest Mouse album, which I’d just bought the week prior, was gone. I only got to listen to the first side, which had a locked groove on “Perfect Disguise”, something which I initially thought was a mispressing (I later read that was intentional). I almost admire the gall of this dude, stealing a large object that he probably found completely useless, just to eventually sit in his basement for all eternity. But I had just bought it a week ago.
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Now that your picture’s in the paper…

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I don’t know where to begin with this one. This is far from just another great LP to revisit, it’s a reminder of a friend that I lost six years ago. We were friends since 7th grade, but it wasn’t until graduation that we became really tight, seeing each other several times a week for nearly a decade. We had a lot in common; basically all the same hobbies, and we were both music guys, though our tastes were fairly different. Actually he only liked a dozen or so albums but he listened to them all the time. So I started getting into them as well. Modest Mouse was the big one, I remember him playing that in the car a bunch as a teenager and thinking “this is actually better than all the rock stuff I listen to”. I can still recite pretty much every word from every Mouse tune up to Good News because of this guy. Continue reading

Endless Endless

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So Kim Jong-Un is alive, but Florian Schneider really is dead. Not that the two have anything to do with each other (outside of strong opinions on the benefits of physical exercise) but it really is emblematic of 2020 that the one time the rumor of someone’s death wound up being false it was a fucking murderous dictator. Not only that but the news happened to fall on May 6th, which is my birthday, so while I’m waking up to birthday wishes I’m also seeing the news that one of my musical heroes has died.

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