27 April 2010

This is the cover for the new Wolf Parade album, which will come out in one of the summer months on Sub Pop. The band will be playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival in July.

I bought this on Amazon for less than a pack of cigarettes

Bobby Conn: The Golden Age (Thrill Jockey 2001)
Bradford Cox said that in his opinion, this was the most defining and important work of the last decade and based on that I purchased this record on the cheap. I also like it because Pitchfork gave it a 2.9, and in the article the reviewer calls one song "disgusting". The lyrics on The Golden Age are comprised of talk about oral sex and implied drug abuse. In an interview, Conn himself said that the album was about "the depressing realization that I managed to extend the teenage years into my mid-30s." He then said that, "American society is structured to deal with superficial identity questions to keep people from making trouble." Dude has a lot going on inside his dome.
This record could easily rub people the wrong way. Super-intense lyrics people would probably be horrified by the tales woven on this record, and others could potentially be turned off by the music itself. There's some pretty serious falsetto at times, and the whole thing sparkles with glam rock sensibility. Haters would predictably say that it sounds like Prince, while older cats would enthusiastically say that it sounds like Prince but in a good way. There are also others who may adore this album. It's fun to listen to, and if you take the lyrics as just stories and aren't bothered by adult talk then this is a viable piece of music.
When a piece of art makes a person blush, one of two things occur. The individual in question either embraces the art and champions the cause, or they freak out and rail against it as much as they can. You have to have an open mind to spin this record. It can be enjoyable if let it. With that being said, if you go into it with your mind already made up then this may not play out so well.
Personally, I like the pastiche. Aspects of this record work for me, and perhaps they could work for you too.
There's a new M.I.A song called "Born Free", and a short film for it dropped a few days back. The video is nine minutes long, and it's a raid on this apartment complex and the police are viciously attacking everyone they see. There's strong language, and nudity. NOT SAFE FOR WORK. And then the viewer comes to find out that the police were there looking for redheads. They finally find one, and they drag him out to this bus which is filled with gingers. Then they're taken out to the desert to fend for themselves. A little kid has his head blown off. Again, this is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. The internets has been all over this for days, to the point where I strongly considered ignoring the matter entirely via 'too much buzz' but I hadn't heard the song yet so I figured I should at least check it out. Maybe it was the movie, but I kind of dug the song. The record, which drops on June 29, may very well be cool. Video below. Again, this is very very graphic and kind of disturbing. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to serve as a commentary on how a certain group of people are being treated, and to highlight this atrocity the group in question was replaced by pale pasty boys with red hair in the video.


18 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Seven)

(art by gary)
Berlin (1973 RCA)
There's this one part in Wes Anderson's Royal Tennenbaums where Mordecai is flying back to Richie, and as this is happening the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says" is playing. This same song appears on Lou's Berlin, but it has been retitled "Caroline Says- II". On this record, the track has been reworked and is essentially stripped of whatever promise and hope it once displayed. It's a chilling rendition, and never before has the line "All her friends call her Alaska" held so much weight.
Repeated listens of Berlin are akin to shots of fine whiskey. It burns a little bit going down to the point where rejection is contemplated, but after it settles in your stomach there is a warmth that smacks of satisfaction. Yesterday, I said that this was the best Lou solo album and I stand by that statement but I would be remiss without at least suggesting that it's really for true Lou lovers.
Special thanks to Gary for making art all this week, and apologies on my end for the writing.

17 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Six)

(art by gary)
Berlin (1973 RCA)
For each and every album there is generally a time and place to put them on. For instance, this writer enjoys listening to Slanted & Enchanted in the morning, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain at afternoon time, and Wowee Zowee in the evening hours. However, 1973's Berlin by Lou Reed manages to escape most known time constraints. It's definitely not a record for the AM, and if it had to be pigeon-holed then it sounds best in the late night. The subject matter of Berlin is all the stuff, you're not supposed to use to write rock songs. That's always been Lou's M.O. up to this point, but the heroin usage on Berlin doesn't sound nearly as desirable this time around. Not when it's carrying spousal abuse, domestic strife, and children along with it.
At the beginning of the week, certain comparisons were made between the portfolios of Lou Reed and Hubert Selby Jr. If memory serves, then the exact quote had something to do with how this writer knows very little about New York except for what he read in Mr. Selby Jr.'s novels. This was meant as a complimentary nod towards both Lou and Selby, but perhaps some expounding is in order. What I like most about Selby's work is how it's kind of like all the shit from a Kerouac novel, but with the actual real world consequences of what comes with substance abuse and promiscuity. There's no sugar-coating. It's not presented as some groovy hip cat jive. Lou's music registers in a similar place in my mind, and while there are times that on the surface it seems like it's all just a party, repeated listens make it clear that there's more than just words and with Berlin this is the first time where this becomes apparent.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Berlin was panned when critics first heard it in 1973. After Transformer, they were pretty much expecting every album after that to sound the same and when the follow-up didn't they said "Fuck it." Well, "Fuck them", because I like this album. It's difficult, for sure, but it's not unlistenable by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, in the last thirty years many have come forward and said that they dig this album. Admittedly, I had stayed away from it for quite a while because I heard it was a downer but after hearing it my stance has changed. It's probably the best Lou solo album there is. It tells a story, and it's up and down while being captivating throughout. If Lou wanted a great american novel then this was probably his ticket. The Blue Mask may have more quality lines of poetry, but Berlin has the ones that grab you. As a generally non-lyrics person, it is quite the treat to get sucked in so voraciously. Again, the subject matter itself is not a treat, but the presentation and preparation are top-shelf.
A quick scan of the track list shows that not only is there "Caroline Says- I", but there is "Caroline Says- II" as well. The two songs are somewhat pitted against one another even though sonically they share nothing in common, and lyrically they only seem to claim the same characters. Focusing on Part I, it almost has a swagger to it. To the point, where the listener wants to take the man's side. Caroline only uses him like a toy, and is very vile. However, the speaker seems to love her unconditionally and is willing to endure it. Coupled with Part II, it is essentially the centerpiece of the album. Either that, or it's getting late. Also, "Men of Good Fortune" is the best track on the record and one of the best Lou ever wrote period. Side Two tomorrow.

16 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Five)

(art by gary)
Transformer (1972 RCA)

There's a worn-out expression that goes "Rome wasn't built in a day", and from time to time it's an apt statement. Before Lou Reed could arrive at point where he could create something like The Blue Mask, he had start a little farther on down the line. 1972's Transformer, produced by David Bowie, was the first of many triumphs for Lou. Lou's solo debut was a self-titled joint that undersold and for the most part underwhelmed the listening public. However, after hooking up with Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson, Lou was finally cooking with city gas. If Transformer had failed, then it's not unreasonable to think that Lou's solo career would have been officially over. This is the album that gave him the leash space to make Berlin, and it's also the one that gave him the opportunity to release Metal Machine Music. It's uneven, but compared to what he had to his name at this point in time it's smashing.
"Vicious" is the leadoff track for Transformer, and once it starts it becomes clear that this isn't going to be anything like the previous album. Lou's Lou Reed was made up primarily of redone Velvet Underground songs, and if Transformer needed another selling point it would be the fact that it was/is eleven original songs written by Lou, which in 1972 was tremendously important since it represented the first Lou record to have new songs on it.
Then of course, there is "Walk on the Wild Side" which actually ended up charting as high as 16th on the U.S. Billboard charts and #10 in the UK. It was banned and censored in some countries, but for the most part was played unedited on the radio and was probably heard in places like Montana and Iowa which had to be pretty new for them at the time given all the stealthy references to pills and oral copulation. This is pure speculation, but this writer gets the impression that some people really hate "Walk on the Wild Side" and resent Lou for even making it. It's such a non-Lou song for Lou to do, that the rationale makes sense but it's still puzzling in the grand scheme of things. It's certainly not his best song, and definitely not the best one on the record but it's not terrible and it's kind of cool when they play it on the radio if only because you get to hear "head" said twice. Did the smash success of "Walk on the Wild Side" propel album sales? Maybe, but in the long run that's largely irrelevant since eventually people would have found this record one way or the other. The Velvet Underground didn't sell many records, but in the last forty years a whole fuck ton of people have heard them and the same thing could be said about this album. It could never go unnoticed, it would have been found.
Last night, the comparison was made that if Lou Reed albums were Bill Murray movies then Transformer would be Stripes, the thinking behind that statement being that Stripes while highly entertaining is also devastatingly uneven. The second half of that movie is pretty forgettable, and if you watch it all in one sitting you'd think you saw two different films. Transformer isn't that mired with problems, but there are a few missteps. Namely, "Make Up" which is pretty over the top even for these standards. "New York Telephone Conversation" is a fun song, but at the same time it's not exemplary. Also, "Goodnight Ladies" is a bit of a snoozer even for an album closer. That being said "Wagon Wheel", "Hangin' 'Round", "Satellite of Love", and "Andy's Chest" are four of my most favorite songs ever.

Lou Reed Week (Day Four)

(art by gary) (Writer's Note: This piece is actually slightly different colors when seen in person. One of the perks to knowing the artist, I guess.)
In later years, Lou has somehow managed to snare a role as this elder statesman of rock and roll, and it suits him well. With his music, Lou is always there. He may not be able to give advice, but he'll certainly tell you what's worked for him. And if the problem is too large, maybe Lou will tell you a story. Maybe one about a girl who smokes menthol cigarettes and has sex in the halls all while wearing dentures fasted to her nose.
He has had his vices, and he doesn't advocate them but he doesn't deny their effects either. Lou possesses a critical eye that is somewhat unmatched when compared to the great voices of rock and roll. It holds up with the the literary ones too. He sees it and presents it. He doesn't say to do this or that with it. It's just there, dig it. Critics may say this or that or the other about him, but he's always been there, through wardrobe changes and partners, he's always been there.
Lou Reed Albums seen as Bill Murray Movies

Transformer is Stripes
Coney Island Baby is Lost in Translation
The Blue Mask is Broken Flowers
Berlin is What About Bob?

14 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Three)

(art by gary)
"The Blue Mask" (1982 RCA)
With The Blue Mask, it became apparent that Lou Reed was no longer going to Brownstones, up three flights of stairs. This was a new look even for Lou Reed, the solo artist. In 1982, Lou had married and settled down and in more ways than one. The Blue Mask also paired Lou with second guitarist Robert Quine, former guitar man for Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Now, with a crack band in place Lou put out a hell of a record. One that is borderline dazzling in it's ability to be so on-point and focused. Even Christgau dug this one, using words such as "stirring" and "uninhibited", "controlled" and "precise" in his review.
There's an enamoring quality to this album that is never fully captured on any one song, but is more of a constant throughout the whole thing. Mixtape crowds may as well avoid this joint because this sucker is one singular, solid entity. It has to be taken in whole for it is such a tight composition. "Waves of Fear" has guitar bits that will lift you three feet off the ground, while the title track and "The Day John Kennedy Died" tell stories to say the least. Lou Reed was clean and sober, and handling his shit. At points, he demonstrates a masterful command of everything that is going on. It's coming from his head to the airwaves, but there are no mis-steps in the delivery. Each and every syllable on this record is deliberately placed. It's a marvel at times.
"I love this music very, very intensely. From the day I first heard it on the radio, it changed my life," Lou Reed said that who knows when but it's a sentiment that is still evident on The Blue Mask. This is music made by someone who gives a shit. He wants you to enjoy it, but he's not going to make it easy. You have to take time to appreciate and absorb, but eventually it'll catch.
Suffice to say, that not everyone is going to love this album. There are even some Lou Reed fans who are going to argue the merits of Transformer and Berlin as superior albums, but The Blue Mask features a new Lou character. One who knows more than he ever did before. You may not groove on the down the street with this record, but you leave with a satisfaction that is akin to finishing a massive novel. (Writer's Note: I know that I said the lavish praise would be kept to a minimum for the sake of objectivity, but this album is kind of tremendous on a few levels. Admittedly, it has knocked be back on my heels slightly.)

13 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day Two)

(art by gary)
Coney Island Baby (1975 RCA)
Lou Reed had released four albums before 1975's Coney Island Baby. The first one was self-titled and largely ignored since it was Velvet b-sides re-done with Lou and a larger band. Apparently, no one dug it. The second effort was Transformer, produced by David Bowie and a record that can go toe to toe with anything that has been created in the last forty years. Berlin was the follow-up, and while some argue that it is an album full of nuance no one can deny that it's a heavy hitter. 1974 brought Metal Music Machine to record store shelves. They called it unlistenable back then, and to this day still no one listens to it. In interviews, Lou has stood by it but has also conceded that he was incredibly stoned when he recorded it. By the time 1975 arrived, the Lou Reed catalog was seen as unstable to say the very least.
English teachers always say that when analyzing poetry, one cannot assume that the author and the speaker are the same person. There's supposed to be a disconnect, some space between the two so that the author can properly convey what they're thinking/feeling. The grey area is necessary so that we as readers can recognize moral ambiguity or whatever other device is going on within the poem so as not to immediately assume that the author is some kind of deplorable human being. It allows the reader to think about the subject from different angles, and then digest it accordingly. This is becoming a useless paragraph, but know this: With Coney Island Baby, it is nearly impossible to think that the speaker is anyone else other than Lou. Not only that, but the emotions and feelings coloring the landscape of this album are the kind that everyone knows. Lou Reed is, in fact, a real person.
"Crazy Feeling" may be a mind-numbingly vague phrase, but it still works. The album opener for Coney Island Baby uses this exact terminology several times over but one still gets the idea. The speaker is feeling this person, but doesn't necessarily want to let on how much. They're merely saying that they know, without saying it out loud and cheapening the moment.
Saying it without saying it is a constant on this record. Instead of climbing atop a ladder and screeching these thoughts for the world to see, Lou still makes it intimate. From a lyrical standpoint, everything is very stripped down. Christgau says Lou has never shown his soft side this "nakedly" before, while others on the internets suggest that this is the most accessible record written by Lou since VU's Loaded. If the speaker is Lou, then in 1975 Lou needed someone. He needed comforting and soothing. He wanted to have a good time with a partner, but he also wanted everyone else to have a ball as well. He needed trusting and understanding, as well as the "glory of love".
"Kicks" is the track. On the first few listens, it called to mind that one part in Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn where Vinnie and Harry are throwing the knife around while Georgette is there and then the blade ends up in her leg. Without thinking about it, the song seems to hammer home the point that it's not cool to stab people. However, further listening shows that the song is a scene where a guy is approaching another guy and question his motives, namely the ones that involve stabbing people. The speaker seems horrified by the end result, but at the same time is stifling his arousal. Perhaps arousal is the wrong word. It might be more of a scary-high feeling, but then again it might be arousal since adrenaline and feelings of sex are mentioned throughout the track. The song has audio of bar happening spliced in to set the mood, and the whole thing slinks and crawls to a beat heard nowhere else on the record. Even a lazy listener could recognize that this is the raddest track on the album.
Coney Island Baby is the most conventional Lou Reed album in the sense that Loaded was actually "loaded" with hits. None of it is supposed to go over the head, but rather to a more tender spot. It's kind of up and down and back and forth, but that's how people generally operate. It can't all be a good time all the time. There is an infinite number of possibilities to any and every scenario, and the outcome is never going to be the exact same. It might get close, but each experience is going to be at least a little different if only for the fact that it is another experience. And if it's going to be that way, then you may as well get down.

12 April 2010

Lou Reed Week (Day One)

(art by gary)
Research indicates that Lou Reed was born Lewis Allan Reed on March 2 1942 at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn. It also says that he received electroconvulsive therapy during his younger years in an attempt to shock the homosexual urges out of him. He also went to Syracuse, and made friends with Delmore Schwartz. Following his time done with the Velvet Underground, he worked as a typist at an accounting firm for a year and then released an album that went largely unnoticed. Transformer came out shortly thereafter, but that's for another day.
There's more to Lou than trannies and heroin. Obviously, there's the music but there's also an attitude. Given my limited number of quality life experiences, all that I know about Brooklyn in the 1950s is what I read in Hubert Selby Jr.'s book. I know that people were hungry and broke, and were willing to do whatever was necessary to get through to tomorrow. Cigarettes, pills, and booze are just as good as soup, bread, and milk. The need to survive is penultimate among all else, and running away isn't surviving it's, running away. The individual is the individual, and all decisions and outcomes only affect the individual. Morals are subjective, and the world doesn't hesitate so you shouldn't either.
This isn't going to be hollow praise for seven days straight. Is it possible that the great american novel could be a record? The spirit of life is there, although at times it's battered, strung out, and lonely. However at other times, it's almost optimistic. It knows that tomorrow is coming and could in theory be better than today, but at the same time recognizes that it may not be that great. The words in the songs promote thought, and the music makes the head bob. This is Lou Reed Week.

11 April 2010

High on Fire @ Sonar, Baltimore 4/10/10

Last night on Saratoga Street, my beard grew three times in size. High on Fire, Priestess, Black Cobra, and Bison B.C. all threw down viciously rad sets. Walking through the parking lot, Bison B.C. could be heard clearly which was pretty cool but was also kind of shitty since it meant that we were running late. Bison B.C. was real sweet for sure, and their sound called to mind what Mastodon sounded like circa 2004.
If I was one to get hung up on details, then I would probably say that Black Cobra was good but could use a bass player. However, none of this occurred to me while they were playing. The formula worked well enough on it's own. One dude beat the shit out of the drums, and the other dude played guitar and I had a beer.
I get the impression that some people hate on Priestess, and I guess I can see why but regardless I dig them. Their singer had a Saint Vitus shirt on, and at one point made a hockey reference. I'm pretty sure all the dudes in that band watch hockey, which obviously makes them more legit.
High on Fire ruled so hard that it's kind of unfathomable to think about a day later. Seriously, that shit made me feel like I was ten feet tall.
On my end, it was the best show I had taken in awhile.

06 April 2010

Male Bonding: "Years Not Long"

Male Bonding are a three person outfit from across the pond. They have an album coming out on May 11 via Sub Pop. That's the album art at the top there. When conducting internets research on this group, the phrase "lo-fi" finds it's way into just about every write-up concerning these dudes. I may be alone on this one, but I find that to be a good thing.
This song "Years Not Long" is pretty rad. It can be heard over at the band's myspace page, or at the hype machine, as well as the fader (Writer's Note: You can stream the whole record there as well.), or anywhere else that one could possibly listen to music.
They were also just on something called WBEZ's Sound Opinions, where they accompanied the Vivian Girls in a rendition of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day". I've heard this song so many times over, but it's always been the same version. I'm not saying that I necessarily co-sign this or anything like that, but nonetheless I am posting it.

Vivian Girls with Male Bonding on Sound Opinions from WBEZ on Vimeo.

04 April 2010

New Release

Roky Erickson with Okkervil River: True Love Cast Out All Evil (In stores April 20th via)
There used to be this band called The 13th Floor Elevators, and they were from Texas and they were the first group to ever use the term 'psychedelic" in describing their sound. They released their first record in 1966, and that effort was titled The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. In terms of influence, they are right up there at the top with Black Sabbath and the Velvet Underground.
Shit came to a crashing halt when Erickson got arrested for having a joint in 1969. Apparently, his legal team had him plead not guilty by means of insanity which resulted in stints at state hospitals where electroconvulsive therapy was the daily special.
However, this isn't the end of the tale. Erickson returned to making music a few years back, and now has a new record on the way. According to the internets, True Love Cast Out All Evil is a collection of songs that Erickson had written but never released before. Not only that, but Okkervil River is serving as the backing band on the album. The frontman of Okkervil, Will Sheff, produced the album.
There are more details over at the ANTI- website, and at this point in time it seems safe to say that this record will be quite good. There will be more information when it becomes available.

01 April 2010

Harlem: "Gay Human Bones"

Off of the LP entitled Hippies, which drops April 6 via Matador. Here's the album art as well.

(Writer's Note: I wrote that review last night with glasses that were the wrong color. My line of thinking is still the same, but I realize that there are instances where I probably sounded like a less authentic version of Holden Caulfield and for that I apologize. Sweeping changes are on the horizon.)