Thursday, September 28

Highway To Hell's Ditch

Well this hasn't started as I intended - making an "I'm back!" announcement and then promptly falling silent was entirely unintended. Sometimes life does that to you and your only choice is to roll with it.

But enough about my absence - pretending this is still last week, I'm going to spend a moment talking about The Pogues. The five releases with Shane McGowan were re-released in remastered form last week in the US (the remastering was done and released abroad in 2004). Being able to afford to replace aging cassettes is a joy; hearing the difference between the prior domestic cd release of If I Should Fall From Grace With God is mind blowing. If I Should Fall... has been a personal favorite for nearly 20 years (that makes me feel old), and the sound of that album has been firmly implanted in my brain. The original disc release is a bit flat - the instruments meld more than separate, and the sound is somewhat trebly, even at high volumes. Sounds a great deal like many late 80s cds - not bad, but lacking in warmth, richness, and bass response, all things which were strengths of the best vinyl releases (there was always some truth in the argument that records were better than cds, especially as volume increases. Playing them in the car is a bitch though).

The remastering has changed this thinness of sound, as well as raising the mastering volume to modern expectations. However, I have not heard any traces of the "loudness button" mastering so prevalent - to the detriment - of many new releases. Listen to the Gnarls Barkley cd and be pummelled by the lack of space in the sound field (read Nick Southall's piece here for more than I wish to go on about it, then read more in his followup on compression and loudness); listen to If I Should Fall... and hear the kick anchor "Sit Down By The Fire" the way it should, the space between the bass and the treble rich lead instruments, Shane's voice lurching back and forth in the gaps. Just wonderful.

The bonus tracks on each release, covering some odd singles and b-sides, are a nice addition. On a personal note, having "South Australia" moved out of its expected place between "Thousands Are Sailing" and "Fiesta" was jarring - I had no idea that it wasn't there on the initial English release! Their first version of "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (a bonus track on the reissue of Red Roses For Me) is of particular interest, as it really is a rough version of the song that would be such an emotional, epic anchor to Rum Sodomy & The Lash. It is softer - more wistful than resentful - with the waltz a quiet beat, as opposed to the heavy accent that McGowan reels around so effortlessly and with such great affect in its second incarnation.

I truly expected to be devouring these reissues to the exclusion of all else for weeks to come. It was not to be the case, for by the weekend a second treasure trove had been revealed to me: a plethora of top notch live recordings of AC/DC from the Bon Scott years (note to readers: from now on, if I mention AC/DC I am referring to the Bon Scott version of the band. Though those first two or three albums with Brian Johnson are nearly peerless, they don't hold much interest for me. I like AC/DC because they were perhaps the greatest hard rock/boogie band ever, and though they would become one of the best purveyors of anthemic metal, I like to toe tap more than head nod). This golden hoard contained recordings from 76 to 79; from Edinburgh on the Dirty Deeds tour to Fresno on the Highway To Hell tour. Some were audience recordings, some soundboards, some radio broadcasts. All were borderline essential, with one particular standout - Angus Cha Cha, a bootleg of nearly pristine sound quality from the November 2, 1979 concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon.

I've heard good live AC/DC recordings - the indispensable Bonfire box set had both the soundtrack to the concert documentary Let There Be Rock, as well as what may be said to be AC/DC's best release Live From The Atlantic Studios. These recordings and others had convinced me that they were a much better live than studio band, but Angus Cha Cha is the proverbial pudding from which the proof is derived (I know this is a horrific turn of phrase, but damn it, isn't that what blogs are for?). What can you say about a 10 minute version of "Rocker", complete with a roughly four minute Angus solo (and I do mean solo - unaccompanied, alone) which contains within it a wonderful hammer-on sequence of such harmonic beauty as to make Eddie Van Halen piss himself? Or the always underrated "Walk All Over You", where the audience claps a rhythm to Angus' intro that nervously peters away as the anticipation of the tempo shift overtakes them?

I think it is also a show where the band doesn't overplay. AC/DC were so tight, so propulsive that they could sonically pummel the crap out of an audience. At this Hammersmith show they are distinctly playing along with the audience, and feeding off of their enjoyment. At the Fresno show, just a few moths prior, they are a wave overpowering the audience - all aggression and force. The sense of the direction they would take with Brian just six months or so later is apparent - head nodding metal. The Hammersmith show is different. AC/DC that night was a swingin' boogie band, the same guys who had cut their teeth on "Johnny B. Goode" and "Baby Please Don't Go". It is easy to trace the evolution from the latter to "Let There Be Rock" on that November night; the shuffle beat, the walking bass, Angus' nimble fretwork on his Gibson SG.

Monday, September 18

The Great Music Geek Survey

I came across this over at Flaming Pablum, and thought if I got off my ass to start another music blog I would start if off with this: The Great Music Geek Survey. I think it is useful to get some idea of my likes and dislikes before you decide to invest in following my sordid tales. I also really liked how Alex added some cover art here and there to spice up the drabness, so I'm going to rip that off too. Thanks Alex! So, ado be done - The survey awaits!

What's a great late night song?
"Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" - The Velvet Underground

Name 5-10 wistful/bittersweet songs:
"Man Out Of Time" - Elvis Costello
"Didn't I" - Darondo
"Metarie" - Brendan Benson
"North Dakota" - Lyle Lovett
"No, I Don't Remember Guilford" - Robyn Hitchcock

The 4 Best Songs Ever Written:
"Love Minus Zero/No Limit" - Bob Dylan
"Jive Talkin'" - The Bee Gees
"Strange Fruit" - Lewis Allen
"Airscape" - Robyn Hitchcock

3 Current Favorite Songs:
"Right In The Head" - M. Ward
"Honest" - The Long Winters
"Serious Times" - Gyptian

Classic Early Evening Drinking Music:
Bei Uns Umd Ie Gedaechtniskirsche Rum... [Berlin cabaret songs] - Various Artists

3 All Time Faves That Never Get Old To You:
"Leaves That Are Green" - Simon & Garfunkel
"This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" - Talking Heads
"Strobe Light" - B-52's

Songs Played At Your Wedding:
"Gett Off" - Prince
"Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy Vs. James Bond" - Pizzicato Five
"Steppin' Out with My Baby" - Fred Astaire

Song You Want to Play At Your Funeral:
"Done To Soon" - Neil Diamond

4 Records You Really Dug from 2005:
The Repulsion Box - Sons and Daughters
Shamelessly Exciting - Jason Forrest
Mugimama Is This Monkey Music? - Mugison
Woman King - Iron & Wine

Favorite Records From This Year So Far:
Six Demon Bag - Man Man
Post-War - M. Ward
Witch - Witch

Good Angry Songs:
"2+2= "- Bob Seger
"Sweatloaf" - Butthole Surfers
"Murder License" - Xinlisupreme

4 Clever Song Titles Or Album Titles:
"I Heard You Looking" - Yo La Tengo
"The Decline of Country and Western Civilization" - Lambchop
"See You Later, Allen Ginsberg" - Bob Dylan & The Band
"Save Me From Happiness" - Tim Keegan

One of Your Favorite Lyrics:
My favourite buildings stretch upwards for miles
Remind me somehow of your favourite smiles
Like oak leaves in autumn cascading on stiles
In the rain
- "My Favourite Buildings" - Robyn Hitchcock

5 Cover Songs Arguably Better Than the Original:
"Everything I Own" - Ken Boothe (Bread)
"Shine" - Dolly Parton (Collective Soul)
"Memories Can't Wait" - Living Colour (Talking Heads)
"Hallelujah" - John Cale (Leonard Cohen)
"Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" - The Minutemen (Van Halen)

Ironic Song to Brutally Murder Someone to in a movie:
"Grow Old With Me" - John Lennon

Great Dance Song You Maybe Never Realized Was a Great Dance Song Back in the Day:
"Why Can't This Be Love?" - Van Hagar

Good Album To Workout To:
Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk - Son of Bazerk

Good Album to Clean The House To:
Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash - The Replacements

Good Dining Music:
Moods - Neil Diamond

Good Album To Have Sex To:
My Life - Mary J. Blige

A Good Album To Put You In the Mood (that is NOT Sade, Marvin Gaye or Barry
Ainda - Madredeus

Good Album To Sleep To:
Songs Of The Humpback Whale - Dr. Roger Payne

5 Good Rock Songs That You Can Dance To:
"Antmusic" - Adam And The Ants
"Hey Bulldog" - The Beatles
"Elephant Stone" - The Stone Roses
"East Easy Rider" - Julian Cope
"Rusty Cage" - Soundgarden

4 Good Dance Songs (any kind):
"52 Girls" - B-52's
"Soul Finger" - The Bar-Kays
"Marijuana" - Dr. Evil
"Pilot" - The Notwist

Song That Is Too Damn Sad:
"Me And A Gun" - Tori Amos

Great Love Song:
"I Feel Beautiful" - Robyn Hitchcock

An Album Full of Tenderness:
Out Of There -Departure Lounge

Song To An Ex That Isn't Meanspirited:
"If You See Her, Say Hello" - Bob Dylan

Song To An Ex That Is Kinda Meanspirited:
"Congratulations" - Traveling Wilburys

Song to Listen to While in The Country Looking at Stars:
"Imperial" - Unrest

Song to lose your Mind to:
"Shrivel-Up" - Devo

Songs That Make You Feel Amped and Inspired:
"We're Coming Out" - The Replacements

Great Semi-Obscure B-side:
"The Ghost In You" - Robyn Hitchcock

Song That Makes You Miss Your Mom:
"Homeward Bound" - Simon & Garfunkel

That's Baby Makin' Music (No, Really):
"Green Onions" - Booker T. & The MGs

Criminally Underrated Band That Didn't Get Attention and Then Broke Up:

The Hummingbirds

Feel No Shame - Great Current Pop Songs:

"Ain't No Other Man" - Christina Aguilera
"Maneater" - Nelly Furtado

Album No One Would Expect You To Love:
Thank You - Stone Temple Pilots

Album No One Would Expect You To Dislike:
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass - Yo La Tengo

Album No One Would Expect You To Really Know:
Little Sparrow - Dolly Parton

Emo Album You Actually Like:
E=MO2 - Emo Philips

Good, But Overrated Cause Of Indie Revisionism:

5 Desert Island Discs off the top of your head (30 sec clock):
I Often Dream Of Trains - Robyn Hitchcock
Peggy Suicide - Julian Cope
Black Foliage - Olivia Tremor Control
Live At The Harlem Square Club - Sam Cooke
The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady - Charles Mingus

3 Contemporary Artists That Were Your Faves 10 Years Ago:
Robyn Hitchcock
Tom Waits

Music That Makes You Feel Sophisticated:

Fave Electronic Record You Own:
What Sound - Lamb

Fave Hip-Hop Record You Own:
Deliverence - Bubba Sparxxx

Hip-Hop Song You Know All the Lyrics Too:
They Want EFX - Das EFX

Random Album You Loved In High School But Are Afraid To Admit It:
Black Out In The Red Room - Love/Hate

Album You May Have Listened To More In Highschool than Any Other Album:
Nothing's Shocking - Jane's Addiction

If You Could Enter A Wrestling Ring to a Song It Would Be:
"From Out Of Nowhere" - Faith No More

Album To Clear A Room With:
Machine Gun - Peter Brotzmann Octet

When The Needle Hits The Groove

Welcome. My name is Erik, and though I open the shop on my own, I hope to wrangle some erudite friends into an occasional foray into musc commentary. If that doesn't happen, my own screeds will have to suffice.

If I strike some note of familiarity to some, you may have encountered me somewhere else. I took a Trip a while back, and was known as The Big E in these parts many moons ago. If you want to familiarize yourself with either of those incarnations, some selected peices can be found here.