Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twist & Shout's employee faves of 2008

Our Number One winner for 2008, with 11 votes:

Our Number Two placer for 2008, with 9 votes:

Our Number Three shower for 2008, with 6 votes:
TV on the RadioDear Science

Our Number Four mentions for 2008, tied with 5 votes each:
Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes
Flying LotusLos Angeles
Raphael SaadiqThe Way I See It

Our Number Five mentions for 2008, tied with 4 votes each:
Black MountainIn the Future
Eagles of Death MetalHeart On
MGMTOracular Spectacular
Silver JewsLookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Our Number Six mentions for 2008, tied with 3 votes each:
Erykah BaduNew Amerykah Vol. 1
BeckModern Guilt
Black KeysAttack & Release
CalexicoCarried to Dust
The ClashLive at Shea Stadium
DevotchkaA Mad & Faithful Telling
Dub TrioAnother Sound Is Dying
Bob DylanTell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Gaslamp KillerObey Mixtape

Stephen Malkmus & the JicksReal Emotional Trash
Paper BirdAnything Nameless & Joymaking
RadioheadIn Rainbows
Sigur RosMed Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
SpiritualizedSongs in A&E
WovenhandTen Stones

Our Number Seven mentions for 2008, with 2 votes each:
BengaDiary of an Afro Warrior
Mary J. BligeGrowing Pains
Bonnie ‘Prince’ BillyLie Down in the Light
Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsDig Lazarus, Dig!
Crystal CastlesCrystal Castles
Deerhoof Offend Maggie
Dengue FeverVenus on Earth
Dr. DogFate
Dr. John & the Lower 911City That Care Forgot
Drive-By TruckersBrighter Than Creation’s Dark
Flaming LipsChristmas on Mars
GoldfrappSeventh Tree
Jean Grae & 9th WonderJeanius
JesuWhy Are We Not Perfect?
Kid CreoleGoing Places
Jeffrey Lewis12 Crass Songs
Los CenzontlesSongs of Wood & Steel
Magnetic FieldsDistortion
M83Saturdays = Youth
Mountain GoatsHeretic Pride
My Morning JacketEvil Urges
Rose Hill DriveMoon Is the New Earth
Andre Williams & the New Orleans HellhoundsCan You Deal With It?
Hank Williams IIIDamn Right Rebel Proud
Dennis WilsonPacific Ocean Blue (reissue)
Neil YoungSugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Who At Kilburn 1977

Because there has been so much substandard Who material put on the market, it might be easy to overlook a new DVD release from the band. Do not miss this release though, it is the best thing they have put out since the Isle of Wight video. The first disc is the show recorded by Jeff Stein for his film The Kids Are Alright in 1977. The rap on it has always been that they were unsatisfied with the performances, and shot one more show at Shepperton Studios for the film. Thus, this film sat on a shelf for over thirty years. It has been worth the wait because the passage of time has done nothing but make the footage look more exciting than ever. Beautifully shot and recorded, the concert finds the band at an emotional crossroads of their career. Keith Moon is clearly starting to fall apart, although you will be amazed at how much BETTER he looks than a few months later at the Shepperton gig. The band had just finished recording Who Are You and Townshend was struggling with issues around aging, substance abuse, and his place in rock history. He is visibly agitated during the performance, which actually adds to the overall intensity of the concert. He is an absolute ball of energy, windmilling and jumping on every song. Moon’s playing is sporadic. He comes out of the gate very strong and rallies throughout, but you can see him flag at points. All the years of looning have caught up, and he struggles at moments to keep the beat. Entwistle and Daltrey are exactly as they always were - perfect in their roles. No more original bassist exists in rock and no singer more perfectly fits the bill of beautiful front man than these two. For the most part they seem happy to be playing, and trying to stay out of the way of Townshend’s tantrums. The highlights are the opening “Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” and the closing medley of “My Generation,” a very early and raw “Who Are You” and the final “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which is similar in tone to the one in The Kids Are Alright - in other words a powerhouse. Even though they are suffering the ravages of age and excess they remain - in 1977 - one of the most energetic and powerful bands imaginable.

But wait, there’s more. Disc two contains an entire show from London in 1969. They had just started playing Tommy in its entirety, and this show contains the entire rock opera as well as a full show of hits and rockers. This show was recorded just a few months after Woodstock and a few months before Live At Leeds and it contains all the fire and balls of those great shows. The Tommy portion is absolutely stunning, as a band in full control of their abilities and at the height of their iconic physical appearance just tear through about an hour of material that is almost completely new to the audience. Today, it just wouldn’t happen that way. One can’t help but be awed by the creativity and love for the music conveyed by the band. This concert was filmed by the band’s original managers and, when they were summarily dismissed in the early 70’s, they apparently pitched a king’s ransom of Who-a-bilia into an empty lot. Somehow retrieved, this film has also languished on the shelf for almost forty years and now makes its debut. The quality is so-so, but when the camera is close-up, the images of the band are priceless. It is a magical concert of vintage Who that no fan of the band should miss. Skip the modern recordings of the band in recent years reliving past glory and instead go straight to this superb DVD for a hit of REAL ‘OO. (Note: Also available on Blu-Ray)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's in the Bin? - November 17th, 2008

One of the sheer joys of being in an indie record store is browsing the bins. Just starting somewhere, flipping through things, pulling out items that catch your eye, giving a few of them a test spin. So in the fourth of a hypothetical series, I've browsed the "New Arrivals" bins here at Twist & Shout, picked out a few things, and gave them a listen. The nature of used record stores being what it is, I can't promise these items will still be in the bin by the time you get here. But hey, browse the bin anyway. You might find something else of worth.

CD - Gary Wright - Dream Weaver and Other Hits

If I was a stickler for truth in advertising, this CD probably should be called Dream Weaver, That Other Hit You Know That You Probably Didn't Know Was By The Same Guy Who Did Dream Weaver, His Only Other Charting Hit Which Is Actually Pretty Cool, And Seven Songs Which Never Were Hits At All. But try fitting that on the spine of a CD.

This brief ten-song disc is anchored by the one song Gary Wright will be forever tied to - "Dream Weaver." Five minutes or so of trippy vocals and spacey keyboards from a time when "Nobody played synthesizer" was something bands liked to boast about on the back of their LPs. The song tripped me out when it was on the radio back in 1976 (I was six), and while it doesn't quite have that effect anymore, it still manages to move me a bit. "Love Is Alive," also included, was Gary's other big hit, although one that has pretty much utterly vanished from the public's memory. Probably that's due to it being rather normal by comparison. The melody is simpler, the guitars louder, and the lyrics are rather 70s-lazily-cosmic: "It's all clear to me now/My heart is on fire/My soul's like a wheel that's turning." (Not a stationary wheel, mind you - a turning wheel.) But like most mid-70s chart smashes, I like it anyway, and would probably throw it on after "The Things We Do for Love" by 10cc fades out.

Then there's Gary's third (and final) chart hit "Really Wanna Know You." It doesn't have the cosmic lyrics of his other hits - instead, we get a love song more boring than anything in the Air Supply canon (who were close to ruling the world around the time this song made the charts). "I really wanna know you/I really wanna show you the way I feel/I really wanna know, know, know you/I really wanna show, show, show you." But these third-grade lyrics are propped up with oddball keyboard licks and washes that make the ones in "Dream Weaver" sound tame by comparison. Then there was the music video. Gary, decked out in his white shirt and pants, makes his way through a very red post-apocolyptic (or just really messy) cityscape. He chases after the elusive woman in the black hat holding a white letter Y. I'm sure it was artsy and fraught with meaning, but even when I saw it on MTV back in the early 80s, it looked more like a fever dream brought on from eating too many Skittles. Because of all this, "Really Wanna Know You" ends up being more memorable (and more fun) than most other pop hits from 1981.

And then there's those other seven songs. No, there's no hidden classic buried here, but actually, most of the other songs hold up quite well. Most have the same trippy lyrics and vaguely anthemic quality that are hallmarks of Gary's two big hits, and a few of the songs ("Water Sign", "Phantom Writer") sound great placed next to the big hits. I doubt you'll be skipping over the hits to get to them, but then again, I doubt you'll be skipping over them to get to the hits, either. At least, not if you give them a fair shake.

LP - Soup Dragons - Hang-Ten!

I worked at my college radio station back in the early 90s, and it seemed every LP in the bin looked a lot like this one. The cover art conveying equal measures of both "whimsical" and "art" - hell, they actually spell that second part out for you. But given that, the music inside is somewhat surprising. It's even more so if you happen to remember the band's two minor hits ("I'm Free" and "Divine Thing"). Both those songs were deliberate, measured, and "knowing." But this whole album sounds downright giddy. Like the band has these songs bubbling up out of them, and they just GOTTA let them out. The songs sound a bit rushed, and the production isn't very good (at least until Pat Collier takes over for the band halfway through side two). It's as if the band skimped on both the recording budget and setting up the mics, beacuse darnit, they wanted to get to the part where they play their songs for you! This feeling is rather infectuous, and makes overlooking the album's faults fairly easy to do. "Man About Town With Chairs" ("based on the original short story" - duly noted) isn't a very successful attempt at making A-R-T, but it's easy enough to like. And they do much better (helped by Pat Collier's clearer production) on the final track, "So Sad (I Feel)," a long slow number that picks up speed as it goes along. Not exactly a deathless album, but it's fun to hear people having fun making what they think is art.

7" - Three Belles - "(My Baby Don't Love Me) No More/Sincerely"

Most people who know something about the history of popular music are aware that whitebread cover versions of R&B hits were the order of the day in the mid 1950s. But did you know there was a market for whitebread cover versions of songs by white artists, including whitebread cover versions of whitebread cover versions of R&B hits? Apparently, that's the story behind the Bell music label from the 1950s. (No relation to the 60s/70s label of the same name.) The label featured mainly unknown acts recording versions of other songs that were popular at the time. Have you ever seen those clearly-not-Disney DVDs featuring "The Lion Monarch" and "The Small Mermaid" for $1 at the discount store? It's pretty much the same idea - redo the hit, and sell it cheaper. So perhaps it's not surprising that the Three Belles are no match for the Moonglows, or even the McGuire Sisters, on "Sincerely." And I don't know the original "No More" (by the DeJohn Sisters), but the Three Belles's performance there is only adequate. That said, the musical accompaniment (by Larry Clinton and Orchestra) is actually really good. I don't know if this is something I'd pull out and listen to on a daily basis, but it's a good listen, and an interesting footnote to musical history.

- mondo gecko

Friday, November 14, 2008

Portraits of the Artists as Young Men

Neil Young - Sugar Mountain-Live at Canterbury House 1968
Recorded in 1968, as he was just embarking on his solo career after being in the highly successful Buffalo Springfield, this recording will literally bring tears to the eyes of Neil Young diehards. Consisting of equal parts Springfield songs and early solo material the program is punctuated by Neil’s comments, jokes and banter. The overall effect is wondrous. The listener is immediately struck by both how fully formed he is as a performer, yet how young and inexperienced he sounds at the same time. His ability to pull off challenging numbers like “Expecting To Fly,” “Broken Arrow” or a mind-blowing “Trip To Tulsa” sits comfortably next to the folksy simplicity of performances of straight-forward fare such as “Mr. Soul,” or “Sugar Mountain.” The version of “Sugar Mountain” is the one that was originally released as a single, and it is quintessential Neil. He delivers a song of seeming childlike simplicity, yet it has an almost anthemic resonance that grows with each listen. Of special interest are the songs from his first, eponymous release that haven’t seen much live treatment over the years. “If I Could Have Her Tonight,” “I’ve Been Waiting For You,” “The Old Laughing Lady,” the aforementioned “Trip To Tulsa” and “The Loner” all shine with the excitement of new tunes that will one day be classics. Neil is clearly playing to a small, adoring audience, but it is obvious that he is a world-class performer already, and is quite comfortable kibitzing with the crowd. His voice is lovely. At times he sounds like a thirteen-year old girl in the first blush of romance. And I mean that as a complement. Considering the worlds that this man has come over the ensuing 40 years since this was recorded, the overall vibe is exactly what we have come to expect from Neil Young. Even at this tender age he delivered poetic songs of substance in a singular, riveting fashion.

The Doors - Live At The Matrix 1967
This is one of the most often bootlegged sets of shows in the history of bootlegging. Throughout the years these shows have appeared in fair, bad and worse sound quality with incomplete song lists. Finally, the best of these landmark shows has appeared legitimately with HIGHLY upgraded sound and a stunning package with artwork by the great Stanley Mouse and liner notes by all three surviving Doors. At this period they had recorded their first album but not released it and had already started on a few songs from their second album. The audience is tiny, literally less than 30 people. The Doors were like any other two-year old band with limited exposure outside of their hometown; and that is the real charm of these recordings. Jim Morrison and company had not bought into any of the hype yet - in fact there was no hype. “Light My Fire” had not yet been released to radio, and it is obvious listening to the non-plussed audience reaction that there were no rock-star pretensions. What one is left with is a hard-working, highly original band with a great batch of songs, a poetic lead singer, and a future as bright as the sun. The band is tight in their playing, but extremely willing to embark on improvisational flights. Morrison also proves able to throw in extemporaneous bits of poetry to the middle of songs. “The End” and “When The Music’s Over” are particular fertile ground for his lyrical outbursts. What the future would hold for The Doors is now ancient history, but this release offers a glimpse of a great band with wings of wax - nowhere near melting point yet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's in the Bin? - November 10th, 2008

One of the sheer joys of being in an indie record store is browsing the bins. Just starting somewhere, flipping through things, pulling out items that catch your eye, giving a few of them a test spin. So in the fifth of a hypothetical series, I've browsed the "New Arrivals" bins here at Twist & Shout, picked out a few things, and gave them a listen. The nature of used record stores being what it is, I can't promise these items will still be in the bin by the time you get here. But hey, browse the bin anyway. You might find something else of worth.

CD - Delerium - Semantic Spaces

Here's a band I really didn't know much about, other than it seemed to be liked by the same folks who liked Enigma. And there are similarities, but they're certainly their own animal.

The CD got off to a slow start - almost too slow. The keyboard washes and wordless vocals went on long enough that I started to wonder if this was going to be a full-on ambient album. But finally, a beat kicked in, the vocals started, I was on my way. Delerium doesn't really have songs (the way Enigma does) so much as soundscapes - lengthy tunes with elements of 90s dance music (keyboards and strong beats) along with chanting, world music, and whatnot. I don't think I could use it for zoning out, but it might be an ideal soundtrack to a lengthy car trip.

LP - Nash the Slash - Children of the Night

There certainly weren't any shortage of odd ducks from the new wave era, and Nash probably wasn't even closest to the oddest. Like many new wavers, he had a couple gimmicks. He appeared wrapped completely in bandages, like a mummy, along with a white suit and hat. This album includes the Synergy-fronted 70s backlash claim "These are no guitars", but you're not going to miss them. Nash plays electric mandolins and violins with such ferocity at times that you'd just assume it's a guitar. Nash paints some great creepy soundscapes here, starting off with the excellent instrumental "Wolf". Sadly, this is followed by a cover of "Dead Man's Curve". Nash's voice is actually very pleasant, and despite the fact that the song is a "tragedy song", and Nash plays it totally straight, two decades of ironic cover versions have spoiled me. It sounds more like a giddy tune off the Silicon Teens album, and it spoiled the mood set by the opening. That mood is quickly recovered as the record continues, though. Originals like "In a Glass Eye" and "Metropolis" keep the creepy feeling going, and the second cover version ("19th Nervous Breakdown") does a much better job of fitting in, somehow. Another cover version ("Smoke on the Water", retitled "Dopes on the Water" - don't ask) wasn't quite as successful, but by then, I was enjoying the ride too much to really care. My main complaint is the backing bass-and-drum loops, as the "beep boop" started to wear on me by the end of the record. Still, as an off-the-wall early 80s artifact, it's a great listen.

7" - Man or Astroman? - "UFO's and the Men Who Fly Them" EP

One of three MOA 7" EPs that showed up in the new arrival bin recently. I know next to nothing about this band, so I picked this particular one for two reasons. One, having grown up voraciously reading books like "UFOs - Truth or Myth?", I had a soft spot for the title. And secondly, it comes with instructions on how to create your very own Man or Astroman UFO out of the outer sleeve! Gear!

The title ends up being just that - a title. The four songs on the EP - "9 Volt (recharged version)", "The Sound Waves, Reversing", "Italian Movie Theme" and a cover of "High Wire" - don't appear to have much to do either with UFOs or their operators. Mainly, they sound like lo-fi (and proud of it) versions of pre-Beatles instrumentals. At least one track had vocals, but they were buried pretty deep in the mix, rendering them just another instrument. As it ends up, the songs tended to run together and kind of sound the same. But honestly, I think that's the point. It ended up being a groovealicious ride from start to finish.

Caveat - the sleeve insists "Ages 3 and up". Two-year-olds, get your older sister to buy this for you.

- Mondo Gecko

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Are You Listening To Lately (Part 5)?

See older posts for description of this regular column.

Orchestra BaobabMade in Dakar
The title really says it all – while they still show influence from all over Africa, the Caribbean, and beyond, this record more than any other I’ve heard by them subsumes those influences into a sound that’s straight out of Senegal, paying respect to the dominant mbalax style of Senegalese music even if it’s not the only sound you hear. About half the songs date to the 70’s or earlier – updating traditional songs and older pop music is one of the hallmarks of Orchestra Baobab’s style – but if you didn’t grow up with them you’ve never guess the vintage of these tunes simply by listening. Nor would you be able to guess from the energy level here that many of these players had been at it for nearly 40 years as Orchestra Baobab – but you could guess from the easy rapport they have with each other. At times it’s like the songs are merely an extended sequence of conversations on different subjects (lyric trots in English provided in liner notes). Especially notable are the (instrumental – in both senses of the word) voices of Issa Cissoko on saxophone and bandleader Barthelemy Attisso on guitar – these two have always taken the lead roles in the music of Baobab over the years and their camaraderie here characterizes the learned, laid-back feel that’s still charged with energy throughout. Between their last album Specialist in All Styles (fitting title, that) and this one, they seemed to have tapped into some kind of magical pipeline for great music they can turn on at will – though they don’t abuse the privilege. It’s got an elder statesman vibe that never feels aged, they just lay the shit down like they’ve got nothing to prove. Which at this point, they don’t – they’re acknowledged masters. One of the best recordings to hit the U.S. shores in 2008.

George RussellEzz-Thetics
There’s something wonderful and evocative about Russell’s music that I can’t quite pin down (and I’m not about to dive deep into musical theory just to dig his ‘Lydian Concept’). It keeps me a little confounded but it also draws me back to give another shot at understanding things – or following them, anyway – next time I pull this out for a listen. Of course, if you’ve read many of my reviews, this is basically a paraphrasing of what my favorite art does – holds out a little mystery while keeping me wanting to go back for more. Even without the mighty Eric Dolphy on hand, I would find this record enjoyable, but Dolphy always bumps the value of a record up a bit and it’s his extended solo on “’Round Midnight” here that is the record’s crowning moment. But it’s followed not far back in quality by a great “Nardis” and Russell’s own great title cut. His other two compositions (plus trombonist Dave Baker’s “Honesty”) also get off great moments – written and/or played with that unique approach that keeps me a lot intrigued and a little baffled. I don’t “get” it yet, but I love it, and part of that love probably comes from not getting it.

Postal Service - Give Up
I dunno, maybe it’s really better than I give it credit for – it’s catchy as hell, mildly experimental, smart. I think if I had been in or just out of college when this came out it might have a permanent spot on my top ten – at least until I hit my mid-30’s. But I feel about it the way I feel about probably 90% of the smart indie rock that crosses my ears – I can recognize the intelligence and respect the craft, but it feels like it was meant for someone else. Had I come to this another time, I’d probably parse these lyrics the way I do Talking Heads and Eno. I like it, I really do. I enjoy it every time I have an opportunity to hear it. I think it’s a cool idea and a great execution – Gibbard and Tamborello are a real simpatico pair who could even have been in the same studio (but of course weren’t) and not done any better. But even though they’re both roughly my age, I feel a little old listening to it. The more I think about it though, the more I think it's the indie rock equivalent in pop-experimental sensitivity of Upstairs at Eric's.

Gabriel's Angels

It has been hard times. A long, troubled, bleak time. A time of confusion. A time of drought, a time of want. But now is the time for change. Now is the time of enlightenment. A time of adventures, a time of discovery. For, finally... the third and final installment in the Genesis reissue series is here.

At last, Genesis have seen fit to give the world what it wants - a sexy box set covering its golden period with Peter Gabriel and Charisma records (1970-1975). Crammed with audio and video goodies and inevitable deluxe packaging, this completely remixed/remastered set has given Genesis fans like me a reason to live of late.

PART ONE The enigma of the Lamb

To kick off, I want to talk about my favourite (sic) Genesis LP. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is the multi-hued sheep of the Genesis family, i.e. something of an oddity. A Labyrinthine tale told through a murky, psychedelic haze, some clever people say The Lamb is the Genesis masterpiece, and the pundits may be correct on this one. It is also starkly different from every other Genesis release; gone is the very English whimsy of the early albums, the Victoriana, the fairy tale macabre, the sweetness. Like much of the Gabriel-era Genesis stuff, these are surrealist tales, but this time they are fed through a vile, twisted metropolis instead of the English countryside. The Lamb is a striking mélange, full of forboding, street talk, the supernatural and the grotesque, and even, gasp...short hair. Yes! The reverse mohawk, giant flower and foxhead of yesteryear have, by the time the Lamb hit Broadway, morphed into a shorn Puerto Rican street tough with cabalistic tendencies.

As a story (like most concept albums), things get pretty baffling by the 4th or 5th track, but the steady flow of provocative ideas engages and enthralls throughout. The Homeric journey of the protagonist Rael (think: Gab-Rael) is simply the method actor frontman's own cod-schizophrenia played out in a nightmarish Gotham wonderland. Only contemporary Bowie in his ambitious Diamond Dogs period can hold a candle to Gabriel in his role of a lifetime.

There are no weak moments on this LP. The Lamb is a double album of great pop songs ("Counting Out Time," "It," "Lilywhite Lilith"), prog epics ("The Cage," "Colony of Slippermen"), gorgeous ballads ("The Lamia," "Carpet Crawlers") and sublime slices of classic rock ("Back in NYC," "Chamber of 32 Doors," "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway"). There are also several tracks of great experimental music; quasi-musique concrete and free jamming that still sounds superb. Although he doesn't play on the LP, Brian Eno is credited for assisting with effects and general mood. This is most evident on instrumental tracks like "The Waiting Room" and "Hairless Heart." All in all, The Lamb ought to appeal to any fan of quirky 70s rock.

Genesis deserve to be rated among the finest art-rock acts of the 70s, y'know- Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, Bowie, The Pistols. As a musical unit, they were endlessly melodic and creative, and with Phil Collins on board, Genesis were a major powerhouse. The kick drum on this record is a rival to Zep IV as best ever. For Phil, believe it or not, is Prog's greatest drummer. You heard me, Mr. Bruford.

The Lamb is enigmatic not only because of the strangeness of the recording, but also because of the filmic images that accompany it. The cover (a Hipgnosis gem), liner notes, costumes and stage show all have an otherworldly vibe, and because the original tour was never filmed (do I need to say that again?), we can only imagine the power of the original, and so the enigma grows. Listen on headphones, and gaze at 1974 tour photographs and you too will feel a sense of wonder.

With the release of this tremendous box the world ought to realize how cool Genesis were.

- Ben Sumner

What a relief!!!!

I am so pleased that the political season is over. I’m not going to lie, I’m thrilled with the result. As President-Elect Obama and his family took the stage on election night, I had a thrill I haven’t had since the 60’s. It was the thrill of optimism. Optimism that our country will once again garner some respect on the world stage. Optimism that we will actually face down the looming environmental crises. Optimism that the economic underpinnings of this country can be salvaged before we see breadlines and rationing. These things may be inevitable, but it would be nice to believe our leader is at least awake at the wheel.

But really, it is the end to the election cycle that I most relieved to witness. I can’t believe that the TV commercials that play over and over - like the radio show in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day actually change anyone’s mind. The repetitive nature of them makes me less likely to vote for anyone. They certainly don’t change my mind. It is so obvious that the person or organization responsible for them is just hoping that like the “Apply directly to your forehead” commercial, or the “improve your love life” emails that we see day in and day out, the sheer mind-numbing number of times we are exposed to this crap will eventually make inroads to our subconscious and we will become the willing zombies they are looking for. Obviously it works or it wouldn’t keep happening. If it was up to me I would say the election cycle is 4 months, there will be a half-dozen publicly sponsored debates and other than that nobody is allowed to advertise. Think of the billions spent on “I’m candidate x and I approve this message” that could have been spent on helping people with their mortgages or subsidizing home heating credits for poverty-stricken families. It is an absolute joke.

Anyway, the election ended on a really high note that struck the right balance of optimism and sleeve rolling up, and although the stock market has continued to tank for the first few days of this “new era” everyone seems to be in a better mood. We can only hope that this results in some kind of rebound for our battered economy and public confidence. I have never seen people so gun shy about spending and going out. Even after 9-11, when things were plenty bad, the traffic in our store and others I have observed wasn’t this slow. I don’t blame people. After the last 8 years of mismanagement and bad vibes, it felt like the sun might never warm our faces again. Now, I think it just might.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What's in the Bin? - November 4th, 2008

One of the sheer joys of being in an indie record store is browsing the bins. Just starting somewhere, flipping through things, pulling out items that catch your eye, giving a few of them a test spin. So in the fourth of a hypothetical series, I've browsed the "New Arrivals" bins here at Twist & Shout, picked out a few things, and gave them a listen. The nature of used record stores being what it is, I can't promise these items will still be in the bin by the time you get here. But hey, browse the bin anyway. You might find something else of worth.

CD - Interpol - Antics
It's a bit early in the game to label this their "forgotten" album. But between their stunning, "everybody-come-check-THIS-out" debut Turn on the Bright Lights, and the excellent return-to-form Our Love to Admire...came this. Which I guess would at the very least have to be labeled a disappointment. But upon revisiting it post-buzz, I find that it's really not disappointing at all. It's just not quite as immediate as their debut. The songs range from good to great, but rather than jumping out and grabbing you by the ears, they're more subtle. They lay there, and expect you to actually go listen to them. And oddly, doing so proves quite rewarding. "Next Exit" may be a rather oddball opener, but there's plenty of goodies to be found afterwards - notably "C'mere" and "Evil." This CD probably isn't worth as many cool points as Turn on the Bright Lights would be for your next cocktail party, but then again, maybe it is. If you're ready to do a bit of explaining to your friends, that is. And for some, that's the entire point.

CD - Takacs Quartet - Beethoven: The Early String Quartets
I'm going out on a limb a bit with this one, mainly because my knowledge of classical music isn't very extensive. As such, my discussions about classical music and recordings generally hover around "I prefer this one" rather than any true critique I can offer. But I've got several classical recordings in my CD collection, and I'm always on the prowl for more. So let's bring this one down to my level - is it something I'd get? Well, kinda sorta maybe.

I don't know the Takacs Quartet. Judging by the back cover, they wear dinner jackets, hold their instruments and stand in semi-circles, which means they're similar to 95% of other classically-bent quartets. But this two-CD set was somewhat of a surprise. When I see the words "string quartet," I tend to think "chamber music." Four people playing pleasant music that quite often can sort of drift into the background. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - record labels have been minting "The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the Universe!" CDs for years now. But the music here isn't really well-suited to that. The music makes you notice. The bowing is "sharp" and dramatic throughout much of these two discs, which keeps this front-and-center music rather than "something pleasant to put on in the background." I'm not sure if the pieces are written that way, or the Takacs Quartet just played it that way - there's my classical ignorance coming into play. But the pieces were really nice. I enjoyed listening to them. I'd just have to remember not to put it on when I felt like zoning out.

7" - Jorgen Ingmann - "Desert March/Tovarisch"
It's weird and fun coming across something different by an artist you know precisely one song by. I know "Apache" from its appearances on countless "Instrumentals of the 50s and 60s" collections, and so I was intrigued to see what else Jorgen could do. I was expecting "Desert March" to be a rather slow, mournful, almost oppresive number, which shows I'm a product of my time - they'd never release something like that back then. Instead, think a Cub scout troop marching to a jamboree on a particularly warm day, and you'll be in the ballpark. The rat-a-tat snares in the background give it that fun-patriotic "You're a Grand Old Flag" feel, and the Les Paul-esque "guitar choruses" help make it a cool forgotten early-rock instrumental. B-side "Tovarisch," I guessed, would be about as authentically Russian as "Apache" was Apache, and there, I didn't miss my guess. Or did I? The label claims the song is "Trad Adapated by Jorgen Ingmann," so perhaps in fact it is a Russian folk song. But if so, it's been 50s-rock'd into an even more Les Pauly number than the flip. But that's only problematic if you consider "Les Pauly" to be an insult rather than high praise, and that's certainly not the case with me.

- Mondo Gecko