[hey, here's a column that was going to run in the new issue of geneva13 but there was no room for it, but this is better maybe? you can click on things and listen to clips and stuff. hard to click on a link in actual photocopied paper. - Matt]Some fool called this a happy hour.
Very briefly, some notes on records I've been obsessed with, not including the Courtney Barnett EPs that came out sort of recently, or Priests' Tape Two, or the Perfect Pussy tape (who isn't talking about that, though?), or Veedon Fleece, or that new old Neil Young record, or this Charlene & The Soul Serenaders song that I listened to all summer every day. I also didn't include any Lou Reed thoughts because I read Laurie Anderson's goodbye in Rolling Stone and was like, "what else could possibly be said?" Anyway, music stuff:
Mick Farren, who died this past summer at the age of 69, was a musician, journalist, cultural thinker, science fiction writer, and conspiracy theorist. But it's ok to approach his 1978 album, Vampires Stole My Lunch Money, free of context; to just stare at the cover image–his globe of black hair, his wide eyes and blank expression–and dive in. The music is kind of witty Stiff Records peripheral punk–'70s rock & roll, sometimes bluesy, but reinvigorated and connected to the larger punk world, even at times ("Half Price Drinks", "Drunk In The Morning") rivaling the grace and downbeat beauty of Television. Farren sounds like a gruff Brit, well-worn, like he's spent years standing in the rain and is better off for it. So much of the album seems to revolve around drinking and despairing, but even at his most rumpled and haggard and dispossessed and slurry, he carries a certain dignity. He's a thinking person, sometimes trying not to think. He sings about Bela Lugosi and zombies, asks "Is that the best you could do? A planet full of buildings?" (his one stab at spoken-word, "I Know From Self-Destruction", is remarkable and true). He sits alone at the bar, dealing with real life terror, trying to survive. And he wants to live.
I don't know where to begin with Juana Molina. She was an actress on a hugely popular comedy show (La Noticia Rebelde) in her native Argentina in the '80s/'90s and became a star in much of Latin America, and her new record sounds a bit like Suzanne Vega singing over remixed Gastr Del Sol/Tortoise songs with Hardcore Devo-era synthesizer tones added for effect. It's a folky electronic record, but she goes way beyond that. There are her mathy guitar figures that sound like they could have come from DC or Louisville; there are her beautiful, airy sing-song vocals, sometimes layer upon layer upon layer of them; there are the warped, frayed electronics that come in and shiver and float off into space. The music is structured and wild, soothing and exploratory. Even the moments that might be considered challenging/strange feel like little gifts. On "Sin Guia No", backing vocal lines and keyboard tones drift around the song like wandering ghosts while Molina seems to talk and joke. On "Las Edades", off-key keyboards swell in and out, low flares rising and falling. There's a combination of rigor and playfulness throughout. She's spending all day in the lab researching, then going to dance classes a couple days a week, then coming home and fixing a drink. It's a record that often works like a dream life and a regular life coinciding.
I don't feel like writing a long review of this compilation (though it absolutely deserves one), so I'll just say Loving On The Flipside–a stunning collection of overlooked '60s/'70s soul cuts–is a record you need to buy. Anything else I mention in this column is real good and necessary and whatever, but this is the one you should get first. Check out the soft focus and drum power of the Darling Dears. Listen to Eddie Finley's voice howl and burn through "Treat Me Right or Leave Me Alone" (how could a song with that title not be the best song?). Listen to every song over and over forever. Look at the man on the cover wearing a cape, holding a stone in his hand, like he's in a Sun Ra production of Hamlet. Add to cart.
The Clean - Oddities (540)
The Clean are the simplest band and the best band. I mean, the best band if you like an exact mix of things–punky, jangly pop sometimes featuring an organ; post-punk by way of the New Zealand countryside; Syd Barrett by way of Dunedin city streets. They sound like going out at night with your friends and wearing a sweater. That's a dumb description but I think it's right. There's a sense of fun and abandon, and also a cozyness. Oddities collects alternate takes and unreleased stuff from their heyday ('80-'82), though they've had a couple of heydays. If you have their Anthology collection, you'll recognize a few songs and fall totally in love with the songs you don't recognize. It's hard to say what makes them so good. Brilliant, uncomplicated song craft? Some primal part of us (us=dorks) that craves genuine home-recorded pop? When people say something is "classic" what they mean is "it gives you the same feeling as The Clean".