Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stuffs 'n' such

1) I'm always swinging after the pitch when it comes to new music. Part of that is being at the age when everything new I hear reminds me of something old, and if I hear something new I like that carries such an association, I wind up going back to the old thing.

But there are exceptions. One such: Michigan power pop guy Brendan Benson, who qualifies as "new" in my world even though he made his first album, One Mississippi, in '96. My buddy Geoff from Philly, who knows good rock from bad (although the five-year difference in our ages means that there are a few significant differences in our aesthetics), pulled my coat, as he did earlier with Terry Anderson, Eric Ambel, and Tim Carroll, to my great benefit.

Part of the problem I have with power pop is that all of it sounds to these feedback-scorched ears as though every song was written by Paul McCartney, and played by the Who ca. '66. (The great flaw in the late, great Greg Shaw's thinking at the end of the '70s was his belief that Dwight Twilley was going to take over the world; instead, the Knack had one hit and fizzled. Wha-wha.) That said, there's a lot of this style that I dig: Todd Rundgren ca. Something/Anything, anything Dom Mariani's various bands, even guilty '90s pleasures like Freedy Johnson's This Perfect World, the La's "There She Goes," even, um, Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want."

Part of Geoff's pitch: "Chicks dig it." And wouldn't you know, when my sweetie came home and sat down at the 'puter where a compilation Geoff had made me of the cream of Benson's first four albums -- he's since released a fifth, What Kind of World, as well as serving as Jack White's right hand man in the Raconteurs, about whom I could give a rat's ass -- was playing. It took her exactly one minute to ask, "What's this we're listening to?" (The last time she'd responded so positively to anything she heard was when brought over a fuzz pedal I'd been thinking about buying on a night when I was jamming with a bass player at my house. She commented on the tone, and she claims she can't hear the differences in guitar shit.)

As Geoff promised, this Benson guy's songs hit you immediately, and then you notice the details, like the way the arrangement to "Alternative To Love" builds from folkie-strumming simplicity to prog-like complexity, or the folk-blues derived guitar bridge on "Folk Singer,"or the Motown-via-ELO pastiche of "Garbage Day," or great lines like "I fell in love with you / And out of love with you / And back in love with you / All in the same day..." (from "Whole Lot Better" -- it's the "And back in love with you" that makes it genius) or the guileless "You're like me / We're the same / I'm Brendan / What's your name" before the most disarming request for drugs in rock song history (from "You're Quiet").

It pleases me that as long and as attentively as I've been listening (and I'm a dilettante compared to guys I've met that can mention 60 bands in a 15 minute conversation), there's still so much great music I haven't heard.

2) Now that I'm no longer in any bands, I'm getting back into the idea of just playing music. I'm going back and woodshedding stuff I haven't played in 40 years, and figuring out stuff I've always meant to but never got around to. (This week, it's Sonic's Rendezvous Band's "China Fields," which is thankfully on Youtube, since I made the mistake of giving away the only CD on which it appears, which now goes for 40 bucks online.) That said, I'll be playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with Terry Valderas, Robert Kramer, and Darryl Wood. (A practice, a party, and opening HIO's "Improvised Silence" evening at the Cellar, where I'll also sit in with Mr. Horn, Hickey, and Kitchens.) After that it might be awhile before I play out again. We'll see.


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