Tuesday, December 26, 2006

vinyl memories and discoveries

housesitting for bill i've been going through his vinyl and finding a lot of great memories and discoveries. the time period in which one was collecting as well as specific tastes can always be gleaned from the items in, or not in, a collection.

The Teardrop Explodes, Kilimanjarofor example, i was never too into the teardrop explodes, the group led by julian cope, even though their early 1980s liverpool contemporaries echo and the bunneymen were and are big favorites of mine. listening to kilimanjaro today, i can see how they might grow on me. there's no reason they shouldn't. cope's vocals seem like a blend of ian mccullough and paul weller, the guitar has that ringing brittleness of pete de freitas. the keyboards date this music, like they all do, and the horn arrangements are very striking. but the one song i did hear a lot on college radio in 1980s cleveland was "when i dream," which i liked then and find quite masterful today.

XTC_Go_2XTC_White_Musicfilled in some gaps in my XTC knowledge too. i've always known and loved drums and wires, black sea, and english settlement -- which are taken as sort of their first flowering into maturity -- but never really knew their first two albums, white music and go 2 (both from 1978). they were widely available in the used LP bins, i just never bothered with them and i don't know why. regardless, these are throughly enjoyable energetic, quirky, punky pop albums. the standout from these two for me may in fact be the atypical "battery brides (andy paints brian)" from go 2.

the there were the ones i missed between english settlement and skylarking, namely mummer and the big express. can't tell if it's largely the production or what, but even though the former is the one with the hits i feel like the latter is the better album, or has the better overall songwriting or something.

Savage Republic, Jamahiriyasavage republic is a group i only discovered fairly late, possibly even in early college. jamahiriya was the last recording from this LA-based group, purveryors of a kind of tribal drone funk that clearly owed a lot to the pop group, both retaining some of that group's abrasive edge while also smoothing things out a bit on occasion. so it was worth spinning through some of their earlier albums which i did not know. the mobilization label has reissued this stuff on CD, including a 4CD straight reissue box set of the studio albums, which might be worth looking into (tho it's pricey at $60+).

finally tho, far and away the biggest vinyl nostalgia trip, a double album that i surely had not heard in over 25 years: out of the blue by the electric light orchestra.

ELO, Out of the Bluei was ten years old when this album came out in 1977. i knew nothing of the sex pistols and how they blasted away at the clogged arteries of overpretentious rock and pop music. i had been weened on the beatles red and blue albums and was by this point on a steady diet of billboard-driven FM radio and kasey kasem's american top forty countdowns every sunday. no doubt lured in by the chart-topping singles like "turn to stone" and "sweet talkin' woman," i wore the grooves out on this this double-LP concept album.

and it's no wonder: this is perfectly crafted and utterly vapid pop. jeff lynne apparently wrote it in a single three-week burst of creativity, and it shows: amidst a few moments of genius this is the height of banality, a perfect hybrid of day-in-the-life beatles and moody blues symphonicism with a leavening of pink floyd -- but not too much as too make the whole proceeding too ontologically threatening. no vocal line goes unharmonized, no guitar line is single-tracked, string sections are added wherever possible.

track two, "it's over," may be the best thing here: lush 12-string guitars, and an achingly sweet hook-laden melody that joe pernice would've killed for. the lyrics: utterly mindless, depending on the most cliched rhymes: "summer came and passed away / hardly seemed to last a day / but it's over / and what can i do." perfect pop oblivion.

the whole thing is cliche-riddled actually: the fake herb alpert tijuana brass fills in "across the border," the street-car trolley bell in "mr. blue sky" taken straight out of the beatles' "a day in the life," and the obvious nods to pink floyd's "time" in "steppin' out" (again ltrically riddled with banality: "i'm steppin out, i'm movin on, / i'm gonna see the world, like a rollin' stone / i'm gonna be somebody / ooh i'm steppin out.")

my copy of also contained a glossy cardboard cut-out spaceship that you could put together. what 10-year old in 1977 would not have dug that? this shit "had 4,000,000 pre-ordered copies and quickly went Platinum upon release" (wikipedia). also, "At the conclusion of 'Mr. Blue Sky' a heavily vocoded voice says 'Please turn me over.' This occurred at the end of side three of the vinyl record, asking the listener to flip to side four" (wikipedia). this was probably necessary because side four is a throwaway altogether.

1 comment:

Mathias said...

I kind of think XTC was a more interesting band with those first two records, which was when they were still touring. It was after that that Partridge became the incredible studio musician that he is, but those first two records awkwardly meld about a dozen different styles of music together without becoming (for the most part) jokes that play the styles against each other.