Radiohead fans raise your hands. I guess I’m a fan, but it’s an intermittent relationship at best. Maybe you hard core folks can comment on what makes Radiohead so great. I bought their first album, Pablo Honey when it first came out, and let’s be honest, it was pretty inconsistent. Unfortunately, that stuck with me and I missed out for a while when they started making great music.
Kid A actually won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. This version is an appropriately arty package for an increasingly experimental band. It’s a gatefold double LP, on vinyl of course, but records are 10 inchers, not 12. All sides of the gatefold and liners are covered with art by Stanley Donwood and singer Thom Yorke.
I like Kid A, but it’s not something I’ll play often. The overall vibe is like a Pink Floyd album, not really my thing. I thought maybe I was crazy, or maybe just old, for thinking that, but I’ve read the comparison elsewhere.
New Music Monday on W-I-H-Deeeeee… Make up your own jingle.
Thanks to Steven for the tip on this one. Serj Tankian (System of a Down) has a new solo record, Elect the Dead, coming out October 23. The first single and video is “Empty Walls.” It’s heavy thematically and musically, but maybe a tad smoother than SOAD. Tankian’s voice is so distinctive and immediately recognizable that I’m sure most folks will assume it’s SOAD. But those folks would be wrong. Apparently the band members are on hiatus while they pursue other projects. I’m a long time fan of the band. If “Empty Walls” is any indication of what the music from these solo projects is going to be like I think fans have a lot to be excited about.
Serj Tankian — “Empty Walls” video
And if you just can’t enough of that Serj stuff, check out the next video. It’s a whopping, and humorous, nine minutes of Tankian interviewing himself, with cuts from his home studio. There are several characters in the video and they all look familiar.
Zvuki Mu? Ever heard of them? They are a modern art band from Russia that started in the 1980s. This is their debut album and it was produced by Mister art rock himself, Brian Eno. This album is very eclectic with everything from strange pulsing dirges punctuated by sporadic drum and vocal outbursts to accessible but nerdy art disco. Yes, it is that good. The lyrics are in Russian. I’ve read descriptions of singer Pyotr Mamonov’s lyrics as “absurdist”, but how would I know?
My two main memories associated with Zvuki Mu are that my brother and I played it a lot at our record store. We got it as a promo from our Warner Bros rep. She also got us into a live show with Zvuki Mu at the 9:30 Club in D.C. We got to meet Mamonov and the other guys, and in hindsight they did seem somewhat absurdist. In their proper business suits they reminded me more of the Dadaists seen in old photos than the average rock band. Mary thinks we also went to dinner with them, but I think that was another band. Ah, the perks of owning a record store.
Funny thing, when I was listening to this EP by Phantom Tollbooth I kept thinking it sounded like a more metallic version of The Minutemen, with lamer, scratchier vocals. Then, I looked up some info I saw that Trouser Press had something similar to say. It has some decent moments, and if you’re into noisy art-rock you might dig it. We have more than enough of that stuff. I don’t need to hear it again.
What? What is this? Sometimes The Decemberists remind me of The Zutons, The Shins, and maybe even Cake. Then there’s that second song “The Island: – Come and See – The Landlord’s Daughter – You’ll Not Feel the Drowning.” Yes, that is the title, and it’s befitting since this ditty is over twelve minutes and moves from sounding like a sea shanty to classic progrock a la Yes. What? The Crane Wife opens with a title track, “The Crane Wife, Part 3.” Later in the album there is “The Crane Wife, Parts 1 & 2” which is also Freedbird-esque in its length. In between there are a number of more accessible, normal format songs, and they are all interesting.
I haven’t figured out the album concept entirely. All the not-of-this-time artwork (much more than shown here) and lyrics make it seem mysterious, and that keeps it interesting. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery in the music itself.
Acquired: 1988 – At our store RIP Records in Norfolk, VA
I respect this record, and this band, more than I enjoy the music. I’ve already told my story about seeing them live in London, and it was a great experience. That said, though Pere Ubu has created a lot of interesting music over the years, I guess it’s just not my thing. The Tenement Year has some great songs, but it also has some challenging sounds and noises layered in that I often find distracting, off-putting even.
Acquired: 1985 – When I worked at Mother’s Records in Hampton, VA.
I’m not cool enough, or maybe just not old enough, to have bought Pere Ubu’s early records when they came out, but I did get “Terminal Tower – An Archival Collection” when I was 19 or so. They make some pretty interesting music that’s not easy to describe, but someone at Wikipedia did a good job with this article about the band.
I saw them live at the Town & Country Club in London way back in 1987, or maybe ’86. The opening acts were Ut, followed by The Mekons. For the most part, it seemed like a Mekons crowd. That said, Pere Ubu put on a great, but abbreviated show that most people seemed to enjoy.
Unfortunately, some folks expressed their gratitude by throwing crap on the stage or even at the musicians. At one point Pere Ubu singer David Thomas made it clear that if there was any further silliness that they would walk off the stage. Sure enough, some bonehead had to throw something and Mr. Thomas immediately walked off in a huff. I can’t say I blame him. The rest of the band tried to carry on for a bit but it was clear he wasn’t coming back. The other band members eventually walked off too, looking rather frustrated. I’m not sure if Thomas, the crowd, or both were the source of that frustration.
Various -- No Age - A Compilation of SST Instrumental Music
Title: No Age – A Compilation of SST Instrumental Music
Format: Vinyl 12 in.
Rating (1-10): 6
Acquired: 1987 – Bought it when I worked at Mother’s Records in Hampton, VA.
This SST compilation of challenging instrumental music is full of big names, cult names, and just names. Check out the list below and decide for yourself which artists belong in which categories. I have records by many of these folks and I’ve also seen a number of them live. I don’t know if I’ll ever play this double album again. Some tracks were fantastic, but some were just annoying post-prog-rock-for-nerds. Again, decide for yourself who belongs where.
Acquired: 1990 – Bought it for myself at our store RIP Records in Norfolk, VA.
This isn’t the only Steve Vai record I own, but for some reason it’s the only one I can find. Hmm.
I love being witness greatness, and Vai is certainly a tremendous guitarist. Like most guitar hero albums this isn’t the kind of record you want to play often. The songs serve as vehicles for the guitar showmanship. Unless you’re a guitar hero or wannabe yourself, music is more enjoyable when the solos serve the songs.
That said, Steve Vai’s work is much more about the music than just the intense solos than, say, Joe Satriani. It’s also a lot weirder.
Acquired: 1989 – Bought it for myself at our store RIP Records.
Fans of Birthday Party will love this, though the band was part of the Seattle scene through most of the 1980s. I first heard them on the “famous” C/Z record label compilation which also included tracks from Soundgarden and others.
Birthday Party may be a lazy comparison, but I think it’s accurate. There are, of course, differences, but it’s hard not to think of Nick Cave when you hear the frenetic, strained vocals on this record. I believe this was their only proper, full length album.
The Brain Surgery Experience
Want to know what it's like to have brain surgery? Well here's the long version of my experience. Complete with pictures and videos! Read all about the Brain Surgery Experience.
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