Neverending Randomplay #251-#260
Neverending Randomplay is a weekly Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 14,039 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Jam Tags, 1-5 stars, follow each track.
Note: this feature had been a regular Wednesday night feature until a slowdown in posting due to a series of real life adventures. This is an attempt to get it back on schedule.
251. Tricky: Suffocated Love *****
Tricky made his name as a trip hop pioneer in 1992, on Massive Attack's excellent debut, Blue Lines. He went on to outdo himself, and help redefine trip hop itself with Maxinquaye in 1995. "Suffocated Love" opens with a sultry, sinewy bassline, and creepy, deflating-sounding electronic bleeps, establishing a groove that is at once sensual, and frighteningly foreboding. Tricky's laid-back growexplicit rap begins "It's too good, it's too nice, she makes me finish too fast" and gets twisted from there, until we reach the end of the first verse, with a repeated "She suffocates me". His partner and muse, Martine, alternates with smokey, sexy, bluesy, just-plain-hot vocals. Musically, it's a hypnotic downtempo with a world of alien atmosphere; from the echoed synth washes, to the downer electronics, as lush as a magic carpet.
252. Wings: I'm Carrying ****
This is a very minor song in the Wings pantheon, an album cut from their next-to-last album, London Town, from 1978. However, it's actually a very touching number, written to commemorate Linda McCartney's third and last pregnancy (which coincided with the recording of London Town). It's mostly McCartney alone on acoustic, with a tasteful and sweet string quartet (McCartney, who produced, makes like George Martin in the booth). It's soft, which is McCartney's biggest weakness. But it's also very personal, something McCartney's songs usually weren't in the late 70's. London Town was looked upon as a major disappointment as the first album following McCartney's first world tour, and it didn't exhibit the chart muscle his early 70's realeased did. Still, it is one of McCartney's better albums; "pop for potheads" critic Robert Christgau put it once, which it is, only it's a lot better than that sounds.
253. Pale Saints: Kinky Love ***
This is a piece of loose dream pop from Pale Saints, one of the first-wave shoegaze/dream pop bands on the late 80's-early 90's, contemporaries with Lush and My Bloody Valentine. It's a slow tempo number, but with a swinging lilt to the rhythm that keeps things moving along. The guitars chime; there's a smorgasboard of sounds and textures in the instrumentation and arrangement; the melody is perky. From the 1991 EP Flesh Balloon, which followed their breakthough 1990 album Comforts of Madness . The vocals are handled by new member Meriel Barham, formerly the original vocalist of Lush, when they were still called The Babymakers. On "Kinky Love" her kooky but oddly almost campy vocal the loopy and almost corny lyrics got me wondering who wrote it. Turns out it was a Nancy Sinatra single in 1976. A cute little number, but not one likely to win them any new fans; Comforts of Madness , however, is excellent.
254. Rolling Stones: Suzy Q *****
Ah, I was in the mood for some Stones, and this one is great. 12X5 was the Rolling Stones' second album, released in October 1964 in the U.S. Although the legend that the early Stones albums are great records is essentially true, the first two are definitely works of a band still finding its identity. On the debut, there were only three originals, on 12X5, there were four. The rest were covers, a couple are great, most are good, but all sound tentative; their next album, The Rolling Stones Now! would show more of the classic Stones character. "Suzy Q", the Dale Hawkins classic covered later by Creedence Clearwater Revival and countless other garage bands, closed 12X5. It's one of the great ones. Keith Richard (he didn't put that 's' back until the 80's) and Brian Jones play chaotic and super-fuzzed guitars; Wyman and Watts half-boogie, half-swing underneath, and Jagger sounds mature and cocky, he's just coming into his own here. Two great guitar solos too, all in just 1:50.
255. Wagon Christ: Night Owls *****
While "trip hop" is the standard pigeonhole for Wagon Christ, it must piss off Luke Vibert royally, because Wagon Christ is a lot more than trendy club music, although it would sound great in a trendy club. Vibert is an experimentalist in a much more broad style than many of trip hop's deejays and rappers. "Night Owls" is arresting right from the start; odd echoes of what sounds like a gamelon or backwards jack-in-the-box (hard to tell) usher it in almost John Cage fashion before a breakbeat kicks, and a groove builds on a crisp drum'n'bass bedrock with an incessent, repeated guitar run that is reminiscent of Funkadelic's Eddie Hazel getting off a tight little run. Wagon isn't laid-back chillout music in the usual trip-hop sense; it challenges the listener, and keeps him off balance, something you aren't always looking for in a chill room. But it has a seductive allure, too. That's why I like it. From Wagon Christ's classic Throbbing Pouch, from 1994.
256. Romeo Void: A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) ***
Romeo Void will forever be typecast by their one big hit "Never Say Never" (Debora Iyall's put-down come-on "I might like you better if we slept together" is one of the great rock moments of the 1980's) They were a new wave band with some depth, however. From San Francisco, they were one of the only bands in America to incorporate ska into their rhythms and instrumentation outside of England, where the Specials ruled. They were also art students, which means their music has a willfully experimental (but hit-ready) sound to it; it gets arty but delivers hooks. That said, they only managed three albums from 1981-1984. A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) was single from the last album, Instincts. It has a fine, bouncy sax, and Lyall's lyrics are provocative and edgy. However, the pop-readiness of the recording strips much of the character from the band; everything is lost in a typical early 80's echoey, glossy production job.
257. Paul Simon: Something So Right ****
Paul Simon's discography looks pretty good on the surface, and it is. There Goes Rhymin' Simon, his 1973 sophomore effort, is a fine album, if a comedown from his excellent 1972 solo debut, Paul Simon. However, Simon was far from a flawless performer, despite being on a serious hot streak at the time. "Something So Right" is a case in point. It's an ambitious song for a singer/songwriter, with big changes in tempo and rhythm, a large cast of studio musicians, strings, wide-reaching lyrics. As such, it's an undeniably well crafted song, and instantly hummable. That said, there's also a certain dullness to it; Simon's vocals remain lowkey, the dense production robs the song of much nuance. And Simon's lyrics sometimes do stray too far, leaving him hanging out there. So: a good song, not a great one.
258. Kraut: Abortion ***
Uh-oh. Kraut was a New York City (Queens) punk band of the early 80's who never really got much of an audience beyond New York's punk dives. A quartet with a long-haired teenaged drummer, they played hardcore, and recorded a couple of albums for Cabbage, the debut, An Adjustmant To Society, from 1983, being the best, a kick-ass slice of vintage early Reagan-era political hardcore; "All Twisted" was their classic single. From the same album is "Abortion". The lyrics are neither pro- or con-; "I told you not to go out at night/I told you to stay close, I told you to stay inside...But you didn't listen! (Abortion!) You didn't listen! (Abortion!)" never make clear if the guy is ordering her to get one, or just pointing out the consequences of her going out. Needless to say, it's no feminist anthem; the almost exclusively male fan base of punk weren't known for sensitivity. Musically it's a three-chord bashfest, over in just 1:13. As hardcore, it's pretty good, but not first-rate.
259. Rush: The Seeker *****
Rush surprised and delighted fans with the 2004 release of the 8-song Feedback EP, comprised solely of classics from the 1960's. This was an intensely interesting issue for a number of reasons. Rush had been around since 1968, although they didn't release an album until 1974. So this offered a glimpse of what the band might've sounded like back at the very beginning, when they were covering contemporary songs. Their taste is pretty good, too: "Heart Full of Soul", "Seven and Seven is", "Mr. Soul", all played like a fuzzy 60's garage band, for the pure joyous fun of it. "The Seeker" was one of the last in the Who's flawless string of U.K. hit singles in the sixties prior to the release of Tommy. Rush stick to the Who's arrangement, and unabashedly turn up the beef in the guitar bass and drums; Geddy Lee isn't Roger Daltrey, but his high pitched keen suits the song perfectly, nonetheless. Great lyrics (if dated by their Beatles and Timothy Leary references), and that Alex Lifeson, anyone ever point out that guy knows how to play a guitar? Get the whole EP; it's loads of fun.
260. Hot Tuna: Whinin' Boy Blues ****
Hot Tuna's tasteful folk/blues debut from 1970, Hot Tuna, is an almost reverent set of live-in-a-Berkeley-coffeehouse covers plus two Jorma Kaukonen originals that don't sound out of place among names like Rev. Gary Davis and Jelly Roll Morton. "Whinin' Boy Blues" is a Jelly Roll Morton classic, one of two on the album, and Kaukonen gives it a languid vibe, with a gentle vocal that pays respects but stays loose; his picking is always a joy to listen to. Bassist Jack Casady is absent on this track; from the stage patter, it's evident this was a set opener, even though it appears at #8 on the CD. Hot Tuna remains the duo's best acoustic album from the original days; well worth picking up for acoustic folk/blues fans as well as old Airplane/Tuna heads.
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