Let The Music Play

Gonna take a week of from dope news and do a little catch up on music.

On my old web log I used to do music reviews every week, but that was in the pre-streaming era and I bought music constantly back then.  It is appropriate to pull out the reviews I think because, for whatever reason, I have been buying music again like a fiend.  Not sure exactly what is behind it, but I have been busy on DISCOGs.  I will cover a smattering of that and some other miscellany.

Firstly, I am running out of music that I like that ISN’T on Spotify.  Peter Gabriel’s stuff is now largely on – and that is probably among the bigger acts that wasn’t on.   Lots of the Drag City stuff is up – including Silver Jews.  The list goes on.  Right now, I think the biggest band I can think of not on at all is Slade.  Who the fuck knows why they aren’t on.  It isn’t the end of the world naturally, but I did buy one of their CD’s recently – largely because I couldn’t find a good online copy of what I wanted (which is the full version of Run Runaway.  Stop judging me.)

There are also lots of individual songs missing that make no sense.  Moby Grape’s Omaha.  PiL’s original version of Rise.  The version of The Farm’s Groovy Train on the original US pressing of Spartacus.  Shannon’s Let The Music Play (especially the amazing extended version which is among the best 12″ records ever put out.)   I could go on – but I won’t.  Instead, I am gonna fumble through a few reviews of actual CD’s I have purchased.

John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once:   They are calling this a “Lost Album”.  It really isn’t – and I don’t think it was intended to be.  I bought some Coltrane bio’s but haven’t read even half.  Nothing I have read so far indicates he had firm plans for all of the stuff he put to tape during the Impulse years.  There are a ton of these vault songs from the late era of his classic quartet (before he started playing “Out” – which isn’t considered to be classic, but to my mind is as much a thrill as the classic quartet stuff.)  This has some stuff that is truly new and unheard and I love it because I love this era when he was asking the original band to stretch more than they ended up wanting to.  It isn’t as good as stuff like Sun Ship – which I love love love.  It isn’t even as good as First Meditations (which I consider far superior to the one that eventually came out – with the Heartbeat Of God stuff on it!  An all-time favorite.)  That said, it is literally still better than almost everything recorded by every artist ever in the history of recorded music.  Literally 99% + of what every one on earth has recorded is room temp dog shit compared to John Coltrane out-takes.  I should just give it an A and be done!  That said, for those who don’t know his stuff or only know the best known stuff, there isn’t anything here that probably would seem transcendent.  I think the live versions of One Down One Up that are out are better than this stuff, and the live stuff of that era would likely be a better place to start.  At the end of the day, there aren’t many songs from his Impulse era that haven’t made an impact on me and added something meaningful to the moment or beyond.  I don’t dwell on his catalog like I used to, but I think that is in part because these recent posthumous releases were left in the vault by John because none of them – in their time – could keep up with his ambition.  What on earth has?!?  His meh stuff is still a human achievement.  If you haven’t worked your way through his stuff, it is probably good to start where everyone does.  If it grabs you, find your way through everything – including this.

Bill Callahan – Have Fun With God:   I love fake dub versions of music by pasty white alt-people.  That is what this is.  I love it.  Almost as good as the Castanets dub album.   Even better than the Karl Blau stuff.  Not sure why I like this stuff so much but I do – even better than the original.

The Cure – Mixed Up:  When the original Mixed Up came out, I thought it was great news because I hated overpaying for all the original 12″ singles (I was a completist, and naturally HAD to have them all…ah youth.)  Then the album comes out and it is like 90% not the original remixes, and even when it is, it was only of – what was then – later vintage Cure.  Not at all what I wanted.  Only the dubby mix of Pictures Of You was worth buying it for (it was vinyl only and I wanted a CD copy.  Again – a completist.)  When I saw it was getting a 30th anniversary reissue, but this time would actually have some of the original old mixes on it, I pounced.  I love the long versions of Close To Me, Why Can’t I Be You, Japanese Dream, and Boys Don’t Cry – and they are all here.  The liner notes basically say that the other ones they did – Primary, In Between Days – weren’t good enough to put out (he has a point – look them up.)  Fair play.  There are some new mixes by old Bob himself from the catalog, most of which are disposable.  The gems are the “extended versions” of stuff.  For an old Cure fan, this was an easy purchase.

General Smiley & McPullish – General Smiley meets McPullish at Dub Cove:  General Smiley has been around forever.  I love Sight Dem Up from this album – found it online – and was listening to it a bunch.  Then I found that there was a physical CD pressed with excellent dubs on it.  I can’t say I am disappointed.  I don’t know anything about McPullish but he can create that old magic feeling I get from dub versions.  It really feels classic without being slavish to the form.  I am gonna seek out more McPullish.  If you like the old Reggae, dig this up on Spotify.

Parenthetical Girls – (((GRRRLS))):  I am not likely the intended audience for them, but I really like this; especially the XiuXiu mixes.   I loved their split single with XiuXiu (amazing cover art – look it up if you are a big Smiths fan), and when I saw a song called C-86 Is Killing My Life, I had to have it.  That song – especially the XiuXiu mix – is pretty standout and I am gonna use it on my podcast if I ever get that going.  Streaming music is mostly free, so the barrier to trial is low.  It’s white, it’s male, it’s gay, it’s young – sorta like the Smiths themselves actually!  PG are no Smiths, but this is fun to have on in the background and the songs are there.

Wire – Chairs Missing:  Overpacked as hell, and more music than I will ever love, but when Wire are great, they are as good as anyone.  I don’t love Pink Flag as much as everyone else.  I like the 2 albums after it, and the first 2 80’s comeback albums more.  This is my favorite of the old albums and I think the stuff from this era showed just how great their song craft really is.  I Am The Fly, Outdoor Miner, Dot Dash, and Sand In My Joints alone are near-perfect.  This package has tons of demos and stories and packaging and such.  It is beautifully done and for the sorts of people who love old Wire, I am sure it too is near-perfect.  I just wanted the remaster and love the singles of the era, so I overpaid for it.  I think I will eventually get an amount of enjoyment from it near what it cost, so I can’t complain.  For 90% of folks, the regular version would be fine.

Roxy Music – Roxy Music Deluxe:  2 CD version of their debut.  Originally, the assholes at their record company tried selling this for OVER 100 BUCKS!  Holy shit!  50 bucks a disc!  No way would I buy it for that.  Apparently no one else did either since they eventually sold it for 20 bucks!  Ding Ding!  It is totally worth that.  I love their catalog, and they are one of the few bands who were slaves to studio technology  who didn’t make me ashamed to be white!  This is pretty much all killer, no filler – especially with Virginia Plain on it.  The extras aren’t amazing, but even on their off days they were amazing.  I am going to buy all the Roxy reissues if they don’t come with that 100 dollar shit.  I probably buy too many reissues and reward the scumbags at the record companies, but I can’t help it.  These reissues sound amazing and I love the music and they just flat-out make me happy.

Ellen Foley – Nightout / Spirit Of St. Louis / Ellen Foley:  I hate Paradise By The Dashboard Light.  I only bought this because it has a bunch of songs written by The Clash on it.  I think Spirit Of St Louis was produced by Mick Jones, and has the Clash as the backing band.  It is a purchase of a Clash-completist (one who loves Sandanista – which is the era in which they were involved with Ellen Foley.)  It is not essential.  It is not important.  The Clash didn’t let any gems get away from them.  More a curiosity than anything.

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake:  PJ Harvey came into the world with a tsunami of praise, and I remember at the time feeling a little bit like it wasn’t 100% validated by the music.  I liked the first album (though I ended up buying the Peel versions since I thought they were better.  I think I was right about that.)  Then Rid Of Me came out with the Steve Albini treatment on it, and I thought the hype of that was over-done too.  I think the Demos version of it was also better.  Again, always saw her work as really good, but thought the recordings were getting nearly hyperbolic praise while not being quite that good.  Many years pass and I hear the singles from the albums and they are all nice enough and good enough and such, but none of the albums blew me away.  I sorta fell out of the need to always go out of my way to hear them and eventually just sorta stopped looking up when I saw something new from her.  I made a mistake in doing so.  Let England Shake is nearly perfect.  I think it is her best and it should have been a massive breakthrough for her.  I have listened to it many many many times and have never tired of it.  I finally broke down and got it on CD even though I still mostly listen to it streamed.  It is not her rocking-est by a long shot, but it does more with intensity than her other stuff ever did with volume.  The sampling here is both standout and totally fits organically.  The songs all express different facets of the theme without being even a little samey.  I simply can’t say enough good things about it.  I think it has worked its way into my top 25 of all time.  Sad I missed it at the time as I suspect the shows would have been something else.

With that, I also make endless numbers of Spotify Playlists, and apparently this is very very common.  I claim no special skill, but seeing others making a living by doing this fills me with a little jealousy.  In another time and place I think I would have tried doing such a thing as a career!  It isn’t to be.  I don’t know if Spotify has running stats on consumption, but were I to share, I think my list would be a bit odd – I have been obsessing over a small number of playlists (Stranglers, turn of the millenium dancehall, instrumental versions of stuff like UNKLE & Mercury Rev, and then my normal endless playing of the Who and the Doors.  Next time I do a music entry I will publish some playlists.  You can look them up any old time as I think they are all public under my name.)  I still listen to music probably 8 hours a day – and even though streaming has changed my listening habits greatly, I am amazed at how often I can find new things.  I don’t know yet how to write about mixes and playlists, but as I said, eventually I may try to figure it out.  Lord knows if you are reading this far, you are a glutton for suffering, so perhaps I will see you there!