Friday, January 26, 2018

Loose canon

This fall, it will have been 50 years since I started buying records. (My first: The Beatles, "Hey Jude"/"Revolution.") Recently, reorganizing and culling my music collection caused me to revisit this list (which I do every so often, for like every music lover who is also a writer, I am a list-maker.) I picked ten albums from each decade I've been listening, because it seemed a truer way than, say, picking one each for 100 bands. (Yes, I like Lou Reed and George Clinton a lot; Pete Townshend, Brian Wilson, Joe Strummer, Shannon Jackson, and Jimi Hendrix less so, apparently.)

I discovered many of these years after they were released, but I still like to listen to everything here (not true of everything I loved 20, 40, or 50 years ago). The sole criterion is my taste, rather than world historical significance. It is evident to me how much my preferences have been affected by reading, and by what I was doing at different times in my life (record store geek, military enlistee, tech writer/moonlighting record store geek, freelance journo, ad account manager, grocery clerk, stay-at-home-parent/amateur pediatric nurse/physical therapist, brokenhearted old man). There's still a lot from all these years I haven't heard, and a lot that I love that isn't reflected on this list. Music's a deep well; how fortunate are we.

1) Laurie Anderson - Heart of a Dog
2) Chris Butler - Easy Life
3) Billy Bragg/Joe Henry - Shine A Light
4) Beck - Morning Phase
5) Mark Growden - Saint Judas
6) Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
7) Cameron Smith/Sur Duda - Paper Knife
8) Petra Haden - Goes To the Movies
9) They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy - Far From the Silvery Light
10) Velvet Underground - Complete Matrix Tapes

1) Brian Wilson - Smile
2) Hochimen - Totenlieder
3) Goodwin - S/T
4) Woodeye - Such Sweet Sorrow
5) Stumptone - Gravity Finally Released
6) Joe Strummer - Streetcore
7) Lou Reed - Ecstasy
8) Bob Dylan - Modern Times
9) Top Secret...Shhh
10) Sonic's Rendezvous Band - box set

1) Lou Reed - Magic and Loss
2) Sonny Sharrock - Ask the Ages
3) Turbonegro - Apocalypse Dudes
4) Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
5) Freedy Johnston - This Perfect World
6) A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
7) Living Colour - Time's Up
8) George Clinton - Dope Dogs
9) Charlie Haden/Quartet West - Haunted Heart
10) Robert Johnson - Complete Recordings

1) Lou Reed - New York
2) George Clinton - Computer Games
3) Ornette Coleman - In All Languages
4) Clash - Sandinista!
5) Captain Beefheart - Doc at the Radar Station
6) Gang of Four - Entertainment!
7) Ronald Shannon Jackson - Mandance
8) Minutemen - Double Nickels On the Dime
9) Husker Du - Zen Arcade
10) Power Tools - Strange Meeting

1) Stooges - Fun House
2) Who - Quadrophenia
3) The Band - S/T
4) Grateful Dead - American Beauty
5) Velvet Underground - Loaded
6) Jimi Hendrix - The Cry of Love
7) Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
8) Joni Mitchell - The Hissing of Summer Lawns
9) King Crimson - Red
10) Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

1) Who - Sell Out
2) Jeff Beck - Truth
3) Beatles - Revolver
4) Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
5) James Brown - Live at the Apollo
6) Miles Davis - In A Silent Way
7) Jefferson Airplane - After Bathing At Baxter's
8) Zombies - Odessey and Oracle
9) Jimi Hendrix - Axis: Bold As Love
10) John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Things we like: Big Heaven, The Pungent Sound, Darrin Kobetich

The first record I ever bought -- the Beatles' "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" -- came with an implicit choice: Did I prefer Paul and melody, or John and noise? They're not mutually exclusive, of course. For proof positive, give a listen to Big Heaven's Strike A Match EP. The sunshine in Jesse Gage and Amanda Hand's voices, whether separate or blended, rides a careening 18-wheeler of fuzzy guitars and thunderous drumming (imagine Mad Max's Marauders invading a California beach), with sardonic lyrics like "I don't mind taking all your money / I don't mind wasting your time / Sometimes life's so fucking funny / So funny I think I might cry" ("Creature") to boot.

The three shadowy multi-instrumentalists who make up The Pungent Sound take their time between releases (nine years in this case). On The CoffinWorms EP, Seattle-based mastermind John Frum, Californian Andy Gassaway (also a veteran of Frum's indie-ish "regular" band Transient Songs), and busy Fort Worthian Ray Liberio (Me-Thinks/Vorvon/FTW, plus he's doing the artwork for the new Pinkish Black record) have produced a dense, doomy half-hour of phantasmagorical psychedelic murk. Ray's vocals ooze out of the mix like a specter from beyond the void, while the instrumental tracks reverberate with bone-crushing intensity.

In recent years, ace axe-slinger Darrin Kobetich has been plying his trade in even more contexts than usual -- in multiple rock and bluegrass bands, Eddie Dunlap's improvisatory Rage Out Arkestra, and a number of Hip Pocket Theatre productions, as well as solo acoustic. Now, with Going Planetary, he may have produced his magnum opus: a cinematic melange of overdubbed ambience in which the ethereal sounds of feedback and bowed guitars bump up against earthy percussion and oud, not to mention some of his most cogent and lyrical electric soloing ever, and even a little surf music, in addition to a palate cleanser of his signature acoustic fretwork. A fascinating departure.