Bad Album Club – P4k Editions – Liz Phair

bad album club
Spiel: In it’s early(ish) days Pitchfork gave some 0.0 reviews out. Speaking about them P4k founder, Ryan Schreiber,  commented that he found these records to be “devoid of worth” to him personally and stood by the rating.

Pitchfork now brands itself as “The Most Trusted Voice in Music” so WE MUST ACCEPT THEIR JUDGEMENT.

My Previous: I finally gave Liz Phair a proper listen this year and fell in love with the lofi honesty of “Exile in Guyville”. Spotify randomly played me a song from this album  (HWC, which I loved and automatically made this album not a zero)  so I was curious to hear more.

Pitchfork Says: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6255-liz-phair/

Matt Le May, who wrote a boring book on Elliott Smith, actually makes a variety of fair points about Liz Phair. He mainly seems personally affronted that Liz Phair could become bland, become crude without being clever and, oh god, become a sell out.

However, Pitchy’s review of Liz’s next album states clearly: “0.0 was wasted on that album, because it’s much better than Somebody’s Miracle”. But, but, but Pitchy, you’re the most trusted voice in music, can I trust this 0.0 or not?


My Take:

OK, in general this is pretty crappy early 00s radio fodder. You can definitely hear production team The Matrix’s influence throughout even if they did only work on 4 songs – musically most of this sounds like it could be sung by Avril Lavigne and there’s definitely a cynicism in the boring production and arrangement.

But honestly, would Avril Lavigne have sung “we haven’t fucked yet” in her biggest hit (As Phair does here on “Why Can’t I”)?  Sk8r Boi might have been more interesting if she had. Honestly, it’s tempting to try and recast this album as an interesting subversion of early 00’s AOR pop but… nope, musically there’s not enough going on for that, it’s Liz Phair wanting a payday and that’s fine.

You could be forgiven, if half listening, of thinking it’s all just bland vaguely risque stuff, until you realise it’s not subtle. There’s a song explicitly about fucking a younger guy. There’s a song about a son imagining in great detail his mum fucking a man who’s not his dad (“Your thinking little thoughts about her taking every inch of him in”). Then there’s HWC…

Hot White Cum sort of encapsulates this album – it’s kind of awesome, it’s filthy, it’s hilarious and catchy but… there’s a terrible harmonica solo and there’s some unbelievably lazy lyrics, the first verse even has “nananana” as a line.

In the end, it’s nice to imagine a world where I could turn on Radio 2 and hear incredibly filthy lyrics hiding behind bland production. Or to imagine when every alt artist embraced their mainstream equivalent –  Radio 1 playing Neutral Milk Hotel sounding like Mumford and Sons but slipping in the occasional line about malformed children in semen, perhaps?

Will I Be Listening To It Again: Oh God, no. Except for Hot White Cum which I will listen to all the time.

 


5 Songs of 2016

So I thought I’d choose 5 songs I listened to on repeat at various points in 2016. They aren’t new songs because that would involve listening to new music and the type of cool I am involves being so cool that I don’t need to be current; in fact, I can be several years behind the times.

And when I say on repeat I generally mean for 2 hours in a row. Man, OCD is useful for some stuff.

So…

A song

Grimes- Kill Vs Maim

Grimes had passed me by (see above) until I put myself through the Sisyphean task of listening to Pitchfork’s Top 50 albums of 2015. This song is incredible. In every way.
The video, however, makes me think that Grimes might have the worst taste in everything (clothes, fashion, ideas for videos) but it really helps that she’s a bonafide genius.
She breaks down the song on Song Exploder and the ideas behind the song are as batshit crazy as you’d wish.

http://songexploder.net/grimes

Jim Sullivan – Johnny

 

I’m  a sucker for a good story. Obscure singer songwriter Jim Sullivan recorded this album with a bunch of session musicians and then disappeared into the desert with his guitar never to be seen again leaving a wife and child in his wake. The song is also pretty much just three chords and three different keys. mmmmm.
His voice is amazing, the production is kind of Lee Hazelwood meets Wichita Lineman and it’s about someone called Johnny flying away for ever. Of course, I love it.

Haim – If I could Change Your Mind

 

When I was first played this I thought “rubbish Madonna rip off” with icy/glossy production. Then… I dunno. It’s still very Madonna influenced but it’s pretty much pop perfection. Also the album’s (almost) all killer no filler. Thanks Amyas!
I can only apologise to Adam and Max who had to hear this song every 20 minutes as we recorded our soon to be ̶i̶n̶c̶r̶e̶d̶i̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶h̶i̶t̶  exist album.
Also, I’ve just realised it shares a title with a Sugar song and Sugar are awesome.

Sufjan Stevens – The Only Thing

 

 

It’s Sufjan, it’s pretty. It’s about the paper thin thing stopping him killing himself… dunno that kind of resonates with me for some reason. It reminds me of when I lived in Brighton and I asked the guy who used to give me a lift to work to drive his car off the pier every morning. He never did.

Belle And Sebastian – Step Into My Office, Baby

 

I didn’t want to put this on the list, I really didn’t but it would be dishonest for me not to. You see, I listened to it 20 times in a row over the past few days in my car. Is it Belle and Sebastian’s best song? Not even close…but I like the arrangement a lot I suppose? Glitter band drums and the keyboard/trumpet is awesome. Plus it also demonstrates my theory that middle 8s exist solely for you to enjoy the rest of the song more when it comes back in.


4 Pieces of Experimental Music I Like

Someone once said there’s no such thing as experimental music – what we hear are the successes the experiments left on the cutting room floor.

*does a quick google*

*can’t find source of quote easily and gives up*

I suppose I would define the music I’m posting here more as “music made with unconventional instruments with a strong concept behind it”. “Art Music”, maybe? Anyway these are interesting to listen to and think about.

Steve Reich – Come Out  (1966)

I first heard this on Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone several years ago and was fascinated by the sound  created by the manipulation of two tape reels and one voice. I’d listen to it every few months for several years and then finally stumbled upon the reason why it was created in someone’s “a cool video every day” youtube list.
After the Harlem Riot of 1964 , where one person was murdered, six black youths were arrested for a crime that only one of them committed. This is a sample of one of these non guilty youths, explaining how he had to cut open a bruise to convince police he had actually been assaulted. Reich was commissioned to make this piece to be performed at a benefit for the “Harlem Six”.

Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Out_(Reich)

In a weird piece of synchronicity I noticed yesterday this piece is sampled in Madvillain’s eponymous album; today I played Trout Mask Replica in the car and Beefheart sings lines from the piece in “Moonlight on Vermont”.

Alvin Lucier – I Am Sitting In A Room (1969)

Again, this is one phrase repeated over and over again. This time, the phrase is recorded and played back, each time with the resonant frequencies of the room it’s recorded in boosted and the others falling away. Eventually it becomes a fascinating piece of noise reflecting the contours of the room it was recorded in.

This is all explained in the actual words of the phrase (or lyrics of the “song”, if you prefer). Whilst this is all very intellectually pleasing (you’re hearing the sounds of a room but not a room you’re in etc.), it’s the emotional part that really resonates:

Lucier suffered from a stutter. Once all the edges are taken out of his voice it sounds just like any other. There’s a yearning there that’s both melancholy and beautiful.

Read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Sitting_in_a_Room

John Cage – Water Walk (1960)

Unlike the other pieces here, there’s no deep emotional part to this but it’s great because of both the high fallutin’ concept behind it and the acknowledgement of the inherent comedy of the piece. Cage walks around a room and makes “music” from a variety of objects. I think it’s best represented here on “I’ve Got A Secret” – a show where a panel have to guess someone’s unusual talent (Salvador Dali is also on a episode this show bizarrely/not bizarrely).

The host says “he takes it seriously, I think it’s interesting, and if you find it funny you may laugh”.

William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops (2001)

This is more obviously “music” than the other pieces but would still probably qualify as “experimental” in it’s original, non-narrative heavy form, due to it’s repetitiveness. Apart from anything else it’s a stunning piece.

The story goes -and this whole piece is very, very heavy on story – that Basinski recorded some looped music in the 70s. In the early 00s he decided to transfer it from the tape he’d originally recorded on to a digital system. During the intervening years the original tape had corroded, changing the sounds and making some of the music fade and warp. This added an extra element to  he composition –  one of decay – that made the music sound gauzy, nostalgic and whistful.

On top of this, it is claimed, Basinski finished this project on September 11th 2001. He filmed the Twin Towers from the roof of his Brooklyn apartment. This became both the video and the art work for the series and made the music a lament for a New York that was forever gone.

The story might be taken with a pinch of salt but makes the whole piece incredibly moving.

Pretentiously yours,

 

John

August 14

 


The Best Captain Beefheart Song…

… on each album. Or what I consider to be an official album. It gets murky. These are my favourite from each little slab of Don Van Vliet’s musical career. No stunning insights, just some great tunes. There’s lots of excellent live versions of these too…

1. Here I Am I Always Am – The Legendary A and M Sessions


Released way after it was recorded this song is far more “straight forward” than most of the Cap’n’s output, lyrically and musically but still manages to sound ummm  odd. The lead guitar sounds a bit like a banjo. It switches time signature, Beefheart’s voice is incredibly full of yearning. A wonderful piece of R n’ B.

2. Sure Nuff ‘n’ ‘Yes I Do – Safe As Milk


I like Safe As Milk, don’t Get Me Wrong but just not as much as a) other people do and b) as much as the later albums. That being said sure nuff n yes i do, theNew Minglewood Blues  quoting song, is a great blues song and the performance in Cannes is fantastic to watch. They’d just started to get “weird”, you can see Jeff Cotton looking decidedly odd.

3. Tarotplane – The Mirror Man Sessions

20 minutes long? Mantra like lyrics based on robert johns terra plane? Sure. Awesome though. apparently john French’s drum sticks were too heavy and he hurt his hands. I like it.

4. Kandy Korn – Strictly Personal


The end of Kandy Korn is a pure joy. Chiming guitars working together with a super sweet melody slightly off. Hypnotic.  The lyrics are dumb but i think that’s the point?

5. Moonlight On Vermont – Trout Mask Replica


The least outré track on Trout Mask Replica, recorded prior to the main sessions. I used to think “how amazing would Trout Mask Replica be if they’d had all the songs like this”, i.e. a bit weird but not too weird. I’m glad the record’s as odd as it is. This song is still amazing though.

6. Dr Dark – Lick My Decals Off, Baby


Apparently Lick My Decals Off Baby was composed in the same way as Trout Mask but arranged differently – and by a different band member (Zoot Horn rather than Drumbo). You can kind of tell. The songs have a much different feel. I have to be in the mood for them. I like this one.

7. Grow Fins – The Spotlight Kid


Beefy goes Souly! Kind of. This song is goofy and a box set was named after it. I love Don’s (I’ll call him Don cos he was my mate) voice on it.

8. Big Eyed Beans From Venus – Clear Spot


Possibly the best Beefheart song. The drumming at the end is the best drumming ever. The put it in space. Well they should have.

9. Upon The My Oh My – Unconditionally Guaranteed


Best track on worst album. Next.

10. Observatory Crest – Blue Jeans And Moon Beams


This is from “The Tragic Band” era. It should be awful – songs cowritten, entirely new band but I have grown to love the record. Jack White likes it to. this song is great. Mercury Rev covered it.

11. Owed T’Alex – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)


After a hiatus of a few years, a Frank Zappa album here, an aborted Bat Chain Puller there, the Cappers released this. The title is making amends with his old guitarist Alex Snouffer (back here), the solo is amazing. I like to shout “Party time with the Jones”. Yes.

12. Dirty Blue Gene – Doc At The Radar Station


People like this album but they don’t love it hard enough. PJ Harvey put most of this song into one of hers for some reason. The bit where the guitar drops out and comes back on genetically mean is the best bit in music. Just generally. Well done.

13. Evening Bell – Ice Cream For Crow


The end. I like the instrumentals so here’s one of them. Goodbye.


Answer The Questionnaire

1. Who’s fault is it?

a) Your fault.

b) Their fault.

2. You’re Hungry. Do you:

a) eat

b)

3. Everyone you know, some day, will die. I

a) know this, but don’t believe this.

b) believe this, but don’t know this.

4. Would you rather live without:

a) oxygen

b) adulation?

5. If it’s your parents fault, what about their parents?

a) it’s their fault.

b) they’re your grandparents.

6. Humans are animals. Is this:

a) the best thing about us?

b) the worst thing about us?

7. Does the Universe differentiate between life and not life?

a) no, but God does.

b) no, but Life does.

8. When you stop, does everything stop:

a) yes

b) no

9. Who’s fault is it?

a) Their fault.

b) Your fault.

10. Does a dog have Buddha nature?

Conclusion:

Mostly a’s – You exist!

Mostly b’s –


Every Band We’ve Been Compared To In Print

Hey, you. Yes, you!

Want to know every band we’ve been compared to in print?

No!?

Well, tough.

bands 1bands 2


(5 Of My Favourite) Cover Versions

I love covers of songs. Not all of them – I hate a) punk covers of songs and b) anything done in the Radio 1 Live Lounge –  but there’s something about a good cover that really appeals to me. Maybe it’s the recontextualisation, seeing something familiar in a new light. Maybe it’s the artist’s love of the song shining through that I enjoy. Even more possibly, maybe it’s because people only choose to cover good songs and use their time honed skills to make them sound awesome.

It used to be common for artists to record “covers”. In fact, I think back in the olden days of the 20th Century they just used to be called “songs” and if a “song” was good everyone would record a “version” and the best “version” would be a “hit”. Then, if your a certain school of rock critic, you say the Beatles came along and spoiled everything by making everyone write their own shitty, shitty songs.

Funnily enough, I suck at covers. Suck. This mainly because I barely proficient at playing songs I wrote. But this is another story…

Here are 5 of my favourite covers.

Cat Power – Satisfaction

I could have chosen the Devo version, which is great, but this is better. I didn’t really know Satisfaction when I first heard Cat Power’s version but when I did I was impressed by how she stripped out the chorus and made it a new song. At the time I just thought it was achingly beautiful and defeated the song sounded.

 

Sun Kil Moon – Tiny Cities

I hated, hated, hated [stop repeating words – ed.] the original of this when I first heard it. Then I heard this – which is sparse and beautiful (I’m going to describe all of these as beautiful). Then I relistened to the original, which I now love. True story. Also, some Modest Mouse fans truly hate this album – possibly because it’s so radically different to the originals, possibly because they’re idiots, who knows?

 

Clem Snide – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievience

One where I had never heard the original. I enjoyed the lyrics and melody and the lovely arrangement. It is lovely. Daniel Johnston is also awesome.

 

Glen Adams – I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I have a whole boxset of reggae Beatles covers. I’m not sure how I feel about “genre” covers in general. But I think I’m generally pro Trojan Records covers of pop music from the 60s. This is weird and slightly hypnotic.

 

Hard’n’Phirm – Rodeohead

My opinion on comedy covers? Generally low but seem as though I (almost grudgingly) love comedy music, I love this. Technically excellent, shows how good the Radiohead songs are, funny etc.etc.