Tuesday, April 3

Lost & Found

The internet can be a kind mistress. Because I love live shows and "in process" recordings, I scour here and there for that missing demo session or live radio broadcast that adds another angle to my favorite artists. Sometimes you get real gems like the Bowie/Stevie Ray Vaughan, sometimes you find interesting but not mind-blowing things like a radio broadcast of Randy Newman with the Amsterdam Orchestra. But the internet can also yield up recordings that are more important for what they represent than for what they are. I've recently gotten my hands on two legendary pieces of eighties ephemera and kind of wish I hadn't.

The first is Pussy Galore's Exile On Main Street. A cassette only release that is their version of the Stones classic, it contains plenty of Pussy Galore's patented noise and practiced ineptitude (Spencer was very exacting in the amount of incompetence exhibited in both their playing and recording, and that care comes across in spades here). Both an homage and a calculated piss-take, you get to hear them argue about trying to read a lyric sheet, sing and play along to the very audible original Stones' recordings, use tape manipulation and feedback overdubs to obscure songs, and generally screw about. As a concept, I think it is a great idea. Unfortunately, this is pretty much my opinion of Pussy Galore - I always liked the idea of what they did better than the execution. It ends up pretty much a one-trick pony, and by the end the band and this listener don't care. I think I would have been better off just hearing the few tracks off of Corpse Love, because that gave me the impression this was a lost gem, which it most surely is not.

The second cassette I now have MP3s of is by perhaps my favorite American band, The Replacements. In 1985, just prior to their first release on Sire records, former label Twin/Tone released The Shit Hits The Fans, a live show taken from a bootlegger at an Oklahoma gig in 84. It is an interesting document; The 'Mats had long had a reputation as a hit-or-miss live act, primarily based on their level of alcoholic intoxication. This shows the boys at their worst, attempting covers to songs they don't all know, murdering a number of their own songs with a missed chorus here and entirely wrong riffs there, and exhibit a general level of incompetence most people would walk out on. But the crowd here is game for it, shouting encouragement when they play the opening of "I Would Follow" and "Iron Man"; when they attempt "Radio Free Europe" you hear someone in the audience yell out a whoop of sorts, as Paul Westerberg out-mumbles Michael Stipe (which is hard to do, when you think about the incomprehensibility of most of the early R.E.M. recordings). It is just as big a mess as I'd always heard, and in some ways I find it endearing. It isn't "warts and all" - just warts. There is pretty much nothing they do here that redeems itself, which is something most bands would find trouble doing five years into their careers. I don't know if I'll listen to it much, mainly because I've come across some boots where they sound like the greatest band in the world, and that is how I like to think of them (which is also why I don't acknowledge Don't Tell A Soul - it never happened).


Alex in NYC said...

Actually, if memory serves, there's a decent (if sloppy) rendition of "Can't Hardly Wait" on that cassette that I prefer to the comparatively slick studio version.

And Don't Tell A Soul had "Anywhere's Better Than Here," which completely rocks.

PS: Thank you for your encouraging words during my week-from-hell last week, Erik.

Erik said...

That version of "Can't Hardly Wait" is a sloppy kind of beautiful, but I have at least two other versions as sloppy & interesting but where Westerberg remembers to sing. It is the high point of the tape though.

Don't Tell A Soul has a few good songs, but in my memory is it is a sonic aberration. I choke on the production more than the songcraft, as even a half-assed Westerberg tune is pretty fabulous. Pleased To Meet Me may be overproduced in parts, but didn't hint at the next one sounding like something by The Outfield.

PS. - you're more than welcome. I hope everything comes out okay.