Friday, 24 December 2010



This is soulful fucking record.  These songs can reduce me to tears; take me down when times are not good.

The blues and indie rock have generally tended to make for awkward bed fellows.  Indie rockers don’t generally have trouble paying the rent.  Even if they don’t have the funds, they have a safety net to cover and catch.  The only risk is that of self destruct.  This version however is the purest, most evocative sense.  It is affecting and amazing.  What they do is not secret but it is very special.  How it is made however can be home to secrecy and discretion.

Thank You is a powerful record.  It exudes a weird kind of gratitude that is not necessarily genuine or sincere.  There are two parties present in this exchange/consumption and it is not exactly clear which is the more important to the other.

In many ways Royal Trux is terrifying.  The cool desperation that seeps from every pore, every lick is that of chasing the next sandwich regardless of which kind of fix that is (and they are in).  The band feels so off the mainstream radar that they might be the basis of militia.

This album tends to appear in my life in broken situations.  When people belittle me I’ll search it out and bring it up.  The pace matches recovery.  Released in 1995 the band was now gaining attention from people with money (industry types) and the fresh direction was touching a sweet spot between Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.  Rather than being a dilution of a dilution the charge of empowerment from each source brought a whole new rasping energy which comfortably sat with their lifestyle, personality and methodology.  As Herrema squawked like a modern Janis Joplin there was something distinctly masculine and bluesy in her motions and ultimate function of the band.  The broken energy soars more than prior lo-fi gestures.

From the off the band is acting like a well oiled machine.  Behind Herrema and Hagerty the engine room rhythm section is given a lot of room breath and with it comes real funk drive as each piece of the puzzle is given space to star.

Often surface sloppy the nods to the Stones can be heard hardest in singalong of “Ray O Vac” while the expansive wail of “The Sewer Of Mars” is quite Led Zep.  Indeed the rumbling, bubbling bass of “Granny Grunt” almost sounds like Thin Lizzy.

Lyrically “Map Of The City” with its slow sweeping blues of working class crimes contains equally images of cancer and masturbation while “Lights Of The Levee” with its big bridges ends with the question “when will the water wash me out?”

Of the more familiar tracks opener “A Night To Remember” is funk driven promise which saw the band performing live on The Word while single “You’re Gonna Lose” was glorious bargain bin stuff all scuffed and too damaged/dirty to make a common dent.

The masterpiece is left to last “Shadow Of The Wasp” literally stings the listener was an explicit description of a struggle to secure goods.  One Friday night I found myself in a perfect life sync with this track as during a moment of the blues attached to an impending emotional and physical exchange in Deptford I couldn’t decide whether I was caught in the saddest and happiest of times.  Slow, subtle and sedate it paints a rough picture of proceedings ahead of stepping up a gear as it launches into the chorus where it questions if things were actually better in the past as they complain about being “sick of searching to get hooked on a feeling”.  Then the third movement kicks in and all erupts heavily layered.  All in all its tiring stuff and then it (and the album) ends on a drum solo.  Special.

This is an album that can change days, maybe even lives.

Thesaurus moment: benefaction.

Thursday, 23 December 2010



Few pieces of music manage to paint pain with such clarity and sincerity.  The clear narrative of this song is of a singular conversation replaying a moment, analysing a personal issue in search of clarity and solace but achieving none.  This is not the winner’s circle, not even the sound of a batter on deck.  The emotion experienced is loss in a very deep and thoughtful way.  The hurt is key in a most essential way.

After experiencing crossover success with Throwing Muses Hersh established herself as quite the force and strong front woman.  Her songs captured a rare take and perspective of damaged moments and exchanges.  And lending a helping hand on this release was Michael Stipe which didn’t harm its chances at all.

“Your Ghost” is a heavy dose of reflection.  These are the words of a person lost and unable to move on.  Stuck in the past she wages war with the telephone and broken communication.  The desire is there but not the urge.  The reality is that to act on impulse would be wrong as external motion suggests the other party is no longer there, no longer receptive.  As I write this there is a person I so want to contact but I know that I shouldn’t and so I won’t.  I can wait in hope for her to call or message but that does not appease my urge of pace and suffer.  Hersh is amazing in capturing and sharing this.

A sombre tone maintains as the twinkling pick of “The Key” with soaring upbeat vocals that echo and transcend in a wondrous description of an ideal partner.  It’s a desire that does not feel sustainable, one destined and doomed to failure.

By the time the release reaches the bluesy take on “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin all issue has been explained if not rectified.  With an acoustic slide guitar certain to impress Jimmy Page there comes a fresh edge and intellect to the song being delivered in a female voice.  This too shall pass.

Quite the host.

Thesaurus moment: eidolon.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010



Subtitled “From Our Rears To Your Ears!” this is something of a strange curiosity of a record but no less wonderful with it.  And inside the booklet there is a message from Sarah herself: “Well, we finally put all our songs on CDs.  Play them while you are making love, or doody”.

I think the Sarah Silverman Program was something of a confused beast.  This is probably demonstrated by the shoddy manner with which it was originally treated (was it two seasons or three – nobody really knows).  Personally I went for it immediately, often to my detriment I like bad taste comedy and these days its tasting worse than ever as limits get pushed further and further.  In essence these are boundaries that have long since surpassed in public life and now as they seep into art and entertainment suddenly this gives people a sense of entitlement to cry foul.  Begs the question: is an awful statement worse when made to a large audience?  In many ways I guess so but the substance and essence of the piece is not new.  Ultimately you just come to the conclusion that people are hypocrites.

Milked for the full ninety nine tracks available on the CD this is a combination of those short songs from the TV series (36 in total) in addition to various sound bites and jokes.  It feels like such a weird throwback concept to a time before the internet and everything being available at the click of a mouse.  That this CD even exists feels something of an achievement.  Thus I feel the need to celebrate it.

Surveying the scene only twenty six of the tracks make it past the minute mark.  That is barely a quarter of the collection.

Within two tracks Silverman has shit herself as it all resembles some kind of memory akin to reading old text messages.  The humour and fun is not so much in the snippets, its in the moments they originally came from which pretty much makes this mostly for fans of the show only.

Other ghastly occurrences include a conversation to God justifying her stealing batteries, nostalgia for an abortion at the eight and a half month mark, patronising the homeless (played by Zach Galifianakis), convincing all her friends that she has AIDS, explicitly teaching a classroom of children how you catch AIDS, she becomes an animal sexual offender and all kinds of awful things occur to her mother’s corpse.  She is awful, selfish right to the end on track 99.

If you’re looking for a stand out track let me recommend track 48 “That’s Been Done Song” with its cynical robotic gestures.  And on “Dry Sheets, Ice Cream, Jellybeans” her voice reminds me of Juliana Hatfield even if the lyrical content is somewhat removed to say the least.  Then there is a Kate Bush moment that comes with “Opposite Day” as the music prowess peaks in collaboration with Keb’ Mo on “Blind Woman Blues”.

Throughout the process she is ably assisted and accompanied by Brian Posehn, Steve Agee, Jay Johnston and her sister Laura Silverman.  And keeping with his metal affection Posehn finds opportunity to rock out on “Glad I Hurt My Hand”.  There’s a lot of talent on show here.

In the absence of a foam finger or mouse mat, this will have serve as an adequate souvenir and reminder of a very fun show.

And despite these nice words the cow still has me blocked on Twitter.  Some people.

Thesaurus moment: ungenerous.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010



“And They Call Me Mad?” is a statement that I often find myself uttering out loud.  Alas in the act of making such an external comment crazy is all that compounds being explicitly received.  You can’t win.  Conan O’Brien knows that from his experience dealing with Jay Leno.  He has however survived and become a cooler cat for it.  And now he is releasing records with Jack White.

Sporting an uneasy expression on the sleeve O’Brien delivers an echoey monologue that sounds like the kind of thing a Simpsons writer would author. In other words it reminds me of Dana Gould.  That and the kind classic recorded passage Carl Reiner or even Bob Newhart might come up with.

O’Brien’s voice sounds strange.  Perhaps due to contractual obligations it is best that it is not easily recognised by lawyers and accountants alike.  View from an artistic perspective, this is a performer fully immersing himself in character, in his creation.  It’s a classic style, a classic device.

“And They Call Me Mad?” is a one-sided conversation with a Frankenstein style lunatic.  One voice is attempting to convince two minds all housed in the same skull.  You can’t help but relate his statements of reanimation relate to his own career.  As he builds “Benjamin” he proceeds to persuade his monster to kill hostile invaders outside his castle.  In camp fashion he directs it like a filmmaker, a Hollywood or TV exec type.  And all done on the promise of a latte.  This was the real life of Dr Frankenstein.

The tables turn on the flipside for O’Brien as interviewer becomes interviewee as Jack White quizzes him from the control room in grill fashion.  Who else would use an analogue recording studio for an interrogation scene?  After running through various fresh nicknames for Conan we get a genuine “how are you?” as O’Brien discusses/addresses life post-Tonight Show having gone on the road.  In a moment of satisfaction he does an impression of rapper Ludacris that sounds quite like Jay Leno except not for legal reasons.  There also maybe a confession of murder.  He has never been more on point.  As he states that he does not like jokes and holds no empathy for other humans it all turns quite confessional.  Jack White hosts quite the church in Nashville.

Spoken word instructional just might be my new favourite genre.

Thesaurus moment: sly.

Monday, 20 December 2010



A number of years ago after coming off tour I found myself with a real urge to watch Mad Max 2.  Perhaps it was my experience of two weeks on the road (often driving) that gave me the desire to revisit so much automotive carnage.  Almost immediately one of my first gestures was to head into town and pay over the odds for a copy of the movie on DVD.  It had been a few years since I last saw the movie.  Indeed the first time I saw the film was around the age of eight when I hired it on VHS from our local video store only to sit down to watch it with my best friend Aaron who cried off the viewing early on as he was horrified by it.  I watched it on my own the next morning as was amazed.  Was this where the world was heading?

The Brian May score on Mad Max 2 was always an imposing thing.  To be frank it always felt too high in the mix, too loud in the crowd.  Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior in America) was never going to be the most quiet or sedate of movies but somewhere down the line it was decided there needed to be more, the effects required additional sonic assault.  Enter Brian May.

Even though guitars feel heavy, the score here is very orchestral.  This is not the full on hard rock action of Flash Gordon; this is serious music, the real deal.  Quite frankly you only know it is conducted by the guitarist of Queen via the credits.  And then you discover: it is a completely different Brian May.

Soundtrack fans are the music equivalent of tourists.  Mainstream ears suddenly pick up on classical gestures and nuances.  With the mental music video of a movie in their mind the shapes of the composition (the posh word for song) add an emotive level.  The second track is entitled “Confrontation” and as menacing strings swoop in you cannot help but envisage Mel Gibson getting pounded by Australian desert punks.

Throughout there is a level menace attached to the eight tracks (ahead of a ninth track of fun special effects).  With “Marauder’s Massacre” a beautiful piece of work is given an ugly name as the vibrant direction changes encapsulate somewhere blood being spilled.  The frenetic movements are jagged in design done to keep and match up with the noted harsh editing of the motion picture.  And then it all ends with a menacing rattle.  This was the future.

With track nine all hell breaks loose as earlier composition “Break Out” is mixed into an “SFX Suite” designed to display how sound effects were used in the score as in essence instruments.  These wonders include the anarchic gems “Boomerang Attack”, “Gyro Flight”, “The Big Rig Starts” and “The Refinery Explodes”.  To incorporate sounds in such a method was groundbreaking.

I must concede the liner notes by Tom Null cannot be topped with his comment: “the music is suffused by a profound melancholy for the losses mankind has sustained”.

Offerings from this album later appeared in other movies including The Terminator.

This holiday is over.

Thesaurus moment: stentorian.

Sunday, 12 December 2010



Riding a fine line between the country rock of “Range Life” and the laidback summer gestures of Wowee Zowee, “Shady Lane” is Pavement in post-whimsical mode.  It feels like the music equivalent of rowing a boat, the early licks inhabit gestures close to steering oars while Stephen Malkmus’ vocal assertions are akin to looking around and breathing in one’s surroundings ahead of expressing gratitude for the world around him.

“We went Dutch Dutch Dutch”.

While not being the most dynamic and exuberant of Pavement songs it does house some of my favourite Malkmus lines in: “you’re so beautiful to look at when you cry” and “you’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequence to your life”.  The latter line is quite the tongue twister for him to deliver while maintaining quite the flow.

I know exactly what is meant by saying there is beauty in crying.  Many years ago when I dated Bella, the first true loved of my life, I actually told her “I like it when you cry”.  Eleven years later a boss would give me the advice “never trust the tears of a woman” but in the meantime I would like to interpret/decode it as being a moment when she genuinely cared.

The seven inch was the version of the record to purchase because it came with “Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence” on the other side and their tribute/ode to REM, which originally/previously appeared on the No Alternative compilation that secretly housed a Nirvana track.  It’s a majestic fawn.

A casual stroll.

Thesaurus moment: perambulation.

Saturday, 11 December 2010



I’ve lost count.  Is this the thirteenth Trumans Water studio album?  Longevity is both a skill and a curse.

Warped and wrapped around the angular there is nothing simple about this band.  Indeed even removing the record from the shrink-wrapped sleeve is awkward.  However once freed from slumber the packaging reveals a most excellent and satisfying twelve inches of prime blue vinyl.  There is no MP3 download code just pure analogue joy.

Typically in playing with the band’s sensibilities the sides are entitled “Zeta” and “Zunis”.  Convention is for wimps and the soft ones.

Housing fourteen tracks (seven on each side), the good ship Trumans Water still sails the high seas of lo-fi with persistent waves of drunken gestures driving more by determination and desire than resource.  In a polished era of digital organisms reducing the workload of man, there is something hugely reassuring and calming in hearing an object such as this.

The sound is clear and familiar.  It is early Pavement through and through.  At one point they were probably on an equal footing/standing but one act decided to refine, some might say mature, their sound whereas the other decided where they were was more than enough.

The artwork looks like some kind of Monty Python collage.  On the front two bears are fishing the stream of a small waterfall while below them a giant hand is grabbing a human body with a frog head attached as the whole scene is bedded by a line of serious cyclists.  In other words the cover looks just how the record sounds.  Its cut and paste, an efficient execution of scraps.  Why bother with typeface when you can just write the band name and song titles in felt tip using a steady hand.  Then as you go in search of information and a tracklisting on the back you find yourself faced with three polar bears staring you out.  Dear listener, you are not to blame.

A mutual appreciation of fuzz and distortion goes a long way as the Zunis side opens in lurching fashion akin to wading through treacle.  The sound is that of being trapped in a vortex.

There is clear contrast in the material of the two sides of the record.  The first feels somewhat more “coherent” with at least song structures harnessing roaming and overdriven gestures.  The vocals feel a cloudy stream of consciousness more designed to stalk the music than vice versa.  The tail (tale) is wagging the dog on this adventure.

Occasionally it accomplishes pop gestures such as the hook happy “Last Time” but aside from that frequent stops and time changes seldom offers a smooth ride or fluid exchange.  However by the end of the side the screaming over distorted has become all encompassing and tough to take in.  It’s scratchy to a fault.

As the second side motions in mechanical fashion with an almost prog work out in “” Hands 4 Eyes” the exploration is lax and meandering offering an almost mini rock opera feel.  Here is Zappa, here is Beefheart, here is the culmination of a huge history serving indie rock.  There will always be something exhilarating about a band building to a hook then once it is served they scream and shout in the style of a rollercoaster going over a cliff.  We Fish” I am looking at you.

If only more guitars were still played in this fashion today.

To surmise Trumans Water remains a wonderful, it’s a just a little too much of it is likely to see the listener drown as they eventually get out of their depth.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Thesaurus moment: soak.