Friday, April 27, 2007

Find a Place In Your Heart for David Crosby...Snorting Blotter Vol. 2

It's taken me 27 years to come to the realization that David Crosby is a genuine American badass. Funny thing though, what pointed me towards this revelation wasn't the fact that he co-founded one of the most influential bands of the 60's in the Byrds or his underrated work with CSN/Y (those first two records sound great right now, sue me!). It wasn't that amazing mustache that he's been rocking since '65 or his artificial insemination of a famous lesbian rocker or even that awesome footage of his arrest during those cracked-out rock-bottom 80's. Sure, all of those things add to the enigma of David Crosby, a man who more than anybody else in popular culture has reflected the ups and downs of this country over the past forty years. What really knocked me out about this guy is a record I stumbled upon in the dollar bins at Used Kids called If I Could Only Remember My Name, Crosby's only solo record from his prolific early era.
I'll tell you right now that you don't have to be a fan of Crosby's other bands to appreciate what's here on If I Could Only Remember My Name, although the record, released in 1971 does bear a resemblance to CSNY's Déjà Vu in sound as it shares many of the same players and guests, including members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But this is Crosby's first "whole" vision on record, one where he called all the shots and wrote all the songs, as far as he remembers. And no Stills, that hack. The mood is down and out, with little hope. Although mellow throughout, Crosby's sounds as if on the verge of a nervous breakdown, with every song basking in a post-Altamont, acid-comedown glow, full of paranoid tales of murder, despair and battles lost.
The eight-minute long "Cowboy Movie" sets the tone, with a mid-tempo rhythm that betters Crazy Horse and guitar leads better than Neil's as Crosby mutters a Mansonian ballad. It's On the Beach before Mr. Young began writing that record, and I'm sure that Neil was a proud friend upon hearing this collection of stunners. Elsewhere you get the classic "Laughing", a rich folk-rock tune embellished with slide guitar and multi-tracked vocals. And there's the strange "What Are Their Names", an outright political calling-out where you can practically hear Crosby give up and stop caring half-way through the song. A few other tracks veer into an interesting jazz/folk/harmony fusion, with Crosby's subdued freak flag consistently permeating the mix.
It really is something to absorb this album a few times and attempt to relate to what he was going through at this point in his life. You hear about so many records documenting the end of the 60's, the death of the flower generation, but this is one of the few works of this nature I can take seriously. The record bizarrely ends with Crosby layering echoed tribal chants, and its impact on the listener is unusual. Does it represent a new age for the man, a push away from society? We all know his story by now, but it makes you wonder what types of demons are being exorcised.
I guess its high time we all re-evaluate Crosby's masterpiece, as it seems Rhino has issued a deluxe edition with a bonus track, fancy mixes and extra video footage. Whether the masses embrace this as a lost classic is anybody's guess, but this record is out there in the new racks and the dusty bins of stores across the country for you to hear. I have a feeling Crosby finds great joy that this record is destined for positive re-evaluation, as it's evident in the music that he was more than a little bit misunderstood and, strangely a little bit ahead of his time. I never would've guessed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Florida's Dead, Long Live Florida

To be perfectly honest there hasn't been too much in my world over the past two weeks worth blogging about, save for a mysterious CDR I borrowed from the one and only Matt Whitehurst of Psychedelic Horseshit fame. On our way to see TNV/YLT down in Cinci, he immediately demanded we listened to "the greatest band in America right now", Florida's Electric Bunnies. It played through twice before we hit Jeffersonville and I was convinced Matt was onto something.
I'm not exactly sure what is on this disc - Matt said they were "demos" - but I'm pretty certain it contains their brand new 7'', Eskimo, and most likely a rough version of what may become thier debut album. You see, there's not a whole lot of anything anywhere on them besides the fact that they're from Miami and have some ties to Florida's Dying, a great little Orlando label that could very well be South's version of Columbus Discount. All I have to go on is the music, like it should be and used to be, and damn if it isn't some of the best Acid/Punk in years, maybe longer.
The Electric Bunnies are a psychedelic band first and foremost, at least this is what I've gathered from this CDR. They can play really nice three-minute punk numbers, some of them as catchy as an Exploding Hearts song or as swingin' as any of those by-the-numbers garage punk bands, and I'm sure they play alongside and in front of mostly Goner-worshipping collector-scum groops, but the truth is this stuff is all of that and then some heavy trippin' thrown on top. Much like the Urinals back in the day, or more recently our beloved Horseshit, or before all of that maybe Simply Saucer, the Bunnies use the three-chord new wave/diy template as a springboard for a holier, more acidic sonic trash.
They're unafraid of vocoders, buzzing keys, fucked solos, extended jams and deconstructed breaks, all the while retaining a wonderful pop-song structure. Hell, some of this borders on bubblegum it's so melodically catchy. All of it amounts to a perplexing package that warrants repeated listening and your deliberate interest. I'm going to the label site immediately to get an actual copy of the 7'' and to beg for an answer to their riddle. You can go here to listen to the Flipper-meets-Bomp! genius of "Eskimo" and we can all keep our fingers crossed on the rumour of an upcoming Midwest tour.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Harvilla's Hot

I've said it before numerous times over the years and now I'll put it in writing: Rob Harvilla is one of our country's greatest music writers. I've had the pleasure of living in two cities where Rob has overseen free weeklies; first in Columbus, where he brought the Other Paper to respectability (it currently flounders with only a single decent scribe, Rick Allen) before leaving for Oakland, where his column in the underrated East Bay Express made me hunt for that paper each Wednesday for the brief time that I lived in the area. On a side note, I miss those Bay Area weeklies...all were very solid, with the Guardian and the Express both excellent.
A little over a year ago, Rob was named Music Editor of The Village Voice, the mother of all weeklies, and he's returned that paper's section into something quite readable again.
Besides choosing excellent freelance writers like the always controversial Chris Ott and compiling a solid staff, Rob's writing is what really brings me back to the Voice every week. He's funny, unashamed of his dorky nature and as unpretentious as any editor the Voice has ever hired, in my days at least. Most recently his white-boy analysis of Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot" had me nearly in tears at its scholarly breakdown of the years dumbest, catchiest song. Elsewhere, his "Status Ain't Hood" and "Cred Sheet" columns are perfect encapsulations of each week's happenings. I really hope others are feeling same way about Rob's stuff. Check the Voice site each week to catch up on his musical obsessions.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Hype Wrangler

We're almost a third of the way through the year so I though now is a good time to take a look at the records other sites are going crazy over. Sometimes the others are right...but ofter they're very, very wrong. Let's see how some of these stack up to the Hype Wrangler.
Most recently it's been the young lads in Los Llamarada securing internet hype from the most worthy of places. Roland over at Siltblog was the first to bite into their debut long-player, The Exploding Now (SS Records, currently on fire) and Dusted's Doug Mosurak followed. Both love the group from Monterrey, Mexico, as they should. The record is quite a jarring listen through and through, as if the youngsters are learning to play and write on the spot with the tape rolling. I could throw out references to Jandek, Teenage Jesus, Cheater Slicks, etc...blah blah outsider this...but honestly, you just have to hear it. Their live show has received numerous thumbs up after only one gig in the states, including slobbering praise from Jared Phillips of Times New Viking, and this LP would get two thumbs up from me if it didn't already have me sucking on one of mine. Will end up on the year-end lists of people smarter than you. A-
One of the most highly-praised records of the year would have to be Panda Bear's Person Pitch, an excellent collection of sunny, melodic pop with stoneddd Wilson/Spector vibe, and like with those two I dunno if the vibes are all good. It's not your average "Pop" that Mr. Lennox presents here, instead a maze of loop-based mantras derived mainly from samples and Lennox's multi-layered vocals. Even without the delicious harmonies, it'd be an excellent (and very listenable) collage experiment. Not surprisingly, Pitchfork and Dusted are both on board, and I'll give it a hearty recommendation, as it's probably the best album he's been a part of. B+
The same two sites have been at the forefront of the hype for the year's biggest piece of trash thus far, Cryptograms by jangle-dance casualties Deerhunter. This record is horrible
, people, and anyone who thinks this is good will surely be looking back in shame in a year or two. It's aimless, third-rate Happy Mondays (a second-rate band to begin with) meets second-rate Animal Collective. Does that sound like fun? Don't let the groovy Op-Art sleeve or Exploding Plastic video fool you...Deerhunter are the Rapture of 2007. Now that SXSW is behind us their 15 mins are officially up. D+
From Here We Go Sublime, by the Field, is a hyped record I can really sink my teeth into. Stylus gives it a top score, and I must agree that it is one of the better albums to ever come out of the always solid Kompact stable. The Field makes fairly traditional house, creating lush, uh, fields of rhythm with subtle twists and turns. Lionel Richie's "Hello" is sampled, Frippertronics are applied, but the secret weapon of this album is the post-Fennesz/Endless Summer melodic glow that fogs up the space of each track. May go down as the best big electronic record of the year and definitely deserving of any and all praise. A-

Finally, a record that's really been heavy on my mind the past week or so...Circle's newest, Tower, out on Last Visible Dog. If you liked the Finnish masters' ambient opus Miljard from last year then you'll assuredly love Tower....Blastitude and aQuarius (surprise, surprise...they gush over anything Circle) are into it. The record is a focused and trimmed extension of Miljard's expansive, slow-moving ambiance...much more upbeat and riveting but still remains calming. Think Eno's ambient masterpieces meet In a Silent Way. Each track is based around a different repetitive, jazzy percussion track with various analog and synthesized keys creating the rest of the movement. Constantly evolving, taking new shapes within each song yet remaining steady, Tower can be as demanding or as unassuming as you wish. Fantastic! A
There you have it. Was it a tad lazy of me to toss off these write-ups after a week of zero posts? Sure. But I had some things I had in the back of my head that just wouldn't go away. I'm taking another week off (I know, and I'm sorry) but when I return I promise to get back to at least two posts a week. Until then, go get that Circle record. And visit SS while you're at it and pick up a vinyl of the Llamarada record, as it is limited.