Archive for December, 2012

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I have no favorite Clash record. I love them all equally(maybe not Cut The Crap, but that wasn’t the full band anyway…although “This is England” is a great track). From the spitfire assault of the 77 debut, to the pop punk perfection of the double lp London Calling, to the sprawling 3 lp epic(or mess, depending on who you listen to…but if it isn’t me…it doesn’t matter) Sandinista, I am totally in awe of the perfection of song-craft balanced with raw energy and bubbling with THINGS TO SAY. I will not say here that they are “the only band that ever mattered”. THAT doesn’t matter(although I have said it many times). What matters is that in every stage of their career they were reaching. This record is concise by Clash standards…definitely no fat here: focused. Just opening with “Know your rights” sets the table…
Then there’s the one- two hit parade punch of Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
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and Rock The Casbah. To me, the true triumph of the side and possibly
the record is Straight to Hell
Apparently M.I.A. is a fan, and should be. She is sort of the spiritual heir of Joe Strummer. But this is not about her, this is about…well, the only band that ever mattered(I know, I know) and their last album before dissolving into the aether. By the way, only click on youtube links, the other shit has nothing to do with this. Like Joe said…Know Your Rights!!!

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There just isn’t enough eerie, funky music out there. No matter how much there can be…it just isn’t enough. Eerie, funky music made by Aliester Crowley’s left hand man is in especially short supply. That’s why this gem was such a treat to find in the wall at Banana’s. Sure, a third of the songs have some hack singing on them, but the rest is dark, satanic disco ear candy. I can’t wait to find his long overdue release of his original score to Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. Til then Chuck Bronson’s mustache will have to do. Just check these.

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The amazing (almost)20th anniversary deluxe 4 lp re-master of Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness totally delivers everything it’s 90$ price tag promises and more. The packaging is lush and expansive, coming with a re-creation(albeit much larger) of the original cd lyric book as well as a book of essays about the album and song by song notes by the madman himself, Billy Corgan. Check the amazingly strange and beautiful art-work…remember this was during the height of the so-called “grunge” movement, so a double album with this bizarre psychedelic Victorian art stood out against the “we don’t give a fuck about production…cause our publicist told us not to” attitudes put forth by other big “alternative” bands of the time.

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  The detail is seen in every element, from the labels on each of the eight sides of LP’s to the liner notes and lyric sheets. Love it

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I just cant get enough of the whacked out decoupage art work.

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Still, to me the real reason I plunked down 90 beans is to hear a sonic upgrade on the only fault of the Pumpkins work…the mix. Billy was all about volume(as were many producers at the time) and this caused a muddied mid to upper range on his recordings. Thankfully, they went back in and cleaned up the masters and there is actually some discernible separation in the instruments, even though there is still some high end distortion on some of the noisier, harder tracks.

No matter the packaging, the re-master or even the 180 gram 4 lp vinyl release(thank fuck for that)…the songs are amazing. I remember skipping school(no big news here) to take the train to a record store that was gonna have this a week early, buying it, getting back on the train, heading home, running up the stairs and locking myself in my room for hours. Just listening to it over and over. This was my generation’s White Album or The Wall, even if nobody agreed with me.

Re-listening to this the other night, I was blown away all over again. The excitement came back. Maybe it was the packaging or maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t listened to this album straight through in many years but I was sitting in my room, holding the cover, and sitting there with my eyes closed just like when I was 15 or 16. What is this, the fucking wonder years? Anyway, even the overplayed hits were fresh and amazing…

Even their videos were great, if not some of the best ever…

The amazing thing is that shortly after this, they released a 5 cd set, culling the singles and the 5-6 extra, non-album songs that were on each single. They could have just as easily put out another 15 song cd and made the best triple album of all time(sorry, but Joe’s Garage is technically in 2 parts). On top of that the cd version of this re-release comes with an additional 20 songs that didn’t make the album from the same sessions.  that’s an amazing output for one band in a 6 month period. So now, years later, this still remains my favorite album of the 90’s for many reasons, but one is that if you could only buy one album, this would have you covered(except for hip hop). There is a bit of everything here, yet it is still somehow cohesive. There’s also Billy’s sheer ambition during a time where ambition was frowned upon. He didn’t give a fuck. He knew better than the public and because of that we have this monument to excess and pop song craft and metal and electronic music and gentle ballads and most things in between. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness…even the title…enough to make any Morrissey fan blush.

Czech Art Nouveau master, Alfonse Mucha started out his career forced to make ads for champagne and cigarette companies but later moved on to be commissioned to make the stained glass windows of St. Vitus in Prague and eventually created Slovanská epopej (the Slav Epic), a huge (20 panels each about 24 feet by 18 feet) cycle telling the history of his people. I don’t care to give more detail than this. This isn’t wikipedia. I just want to show some of the most beautiful transformations of paint into women I’ve ever seen.

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I love Tom and absolutely celebrate his entire catalog. As amazing as I find Mule Variations, Frank’s Wild Years, Nighthawks, Blood Money and all the others to be, Black Rider is my favorite and in my opinion(which is the whole of the law) the most completely realized song cycle God(Tom) has ever put out.

The overall feel of the album is 30’s Germany Cabaret/ Brecht mixed with old time circus freaks as well as old shitty late night sci-fi and spaghetti western shlock. Just check out these three tunes for a taste(or smell) of the record

You almost have to squint to fight the static-y snow of an old black and white tube television playing the late late late show…the only light in an otherwise dark, shitty apartment.

Now we’re in a smokey basement cabaret in Berlin, 1931….then bam, Almaria, Spain on the set of Three Bullets for the General or some other B grade, Italian made western….

Here in Black Rider’s title cut, Tom is almost Joel Grey’s Emcee character from 1972’s Cabaret…These tracks can give a small feel for the scope and overall feel of the album. As for the lyrical theme, I will let the listener work that out. I will say that he co-wrote several tracks with William S. Burroughs…not exactly Desmond fucking Child***

Anyway, check this amazing album out. It’s more a ride than a listen. Tom is God

***Those who don’t know him, good for you…Seriously. Unfortunately I am familiar with his career as a contributor of such Giants as Kiss