Saturday, August 1, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
What fun! Against sense or justification I find myself with time to continue a trawl through some more of the elements. I am intrigued by still how potent a source of lyrical stimulation the periodic table is proving, even as we leave the everyday names behind. Naturally the temptation to use some of the more arcane names of elements for band names, especially if ‘heavy metals’, is too much to resist, for example the well-known(?) bands Nobium, Cobalt, Xenon, C(a)esium 137 and even Barium, hoping the latter haven’t made too much of a meal of it. Sorry to any of them, hoping for a tag to their latest, but I am sticking to the words in songs.
First off is dancemaster David Guetta, who, in 2011, produced this little number, featuring go-to girl in this genre, Sia. I find it fascinating that the video seems to display a girl with supernatural forces running from the Police, not least as the opening bars of the tune seem a lift from Sting’s finest? All a bit generic and by numbers for me. Understandably not in the Greatest Hits that crept onto my shelves last year.
Buy Vanadium, but you will need i-tunes
Unbelievable! Vanadium I had never even heard of, yet clearly a part of the essentials for this gloomy and never more industrial gothic sounding outfit, from their 1983 album "Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T.", or Drawing of Patient O.T., which isn’t a huge help. The name of the group I knew, but this was my very first earburst of them, reading that their thing is the use of non-musical machinery as part of their instrumentation. Resisting the obvious cynical riposte, I am minded of the more recent Fuck Buttons, who similarly invoke noise as music. Oddly I can see an appeal, but maybe I have had too many MRI scans. Erstwhile member Blixa Bargold, guitar/vocals, later became a member of Nick Cave band The Birthday Party and then a Bad Seed.
Buy Chromium (electric)
Who could resist and who does not know this song? An astonishing 45 years old, or will be in a month, astonishingly simple and astonishingly effective. I forgive them for the successive waves of noisy tosh produced within their invented genre, if only for the joy of air-guitar aged 13. And all still alive and squabbling. Wonderful.
So, as stated, no room for Nickelback, thank the Lord, or Nickel Creek, mores the pity, here, so it’s the marmite man himself, Tom Waits. Fabulous songwriter, of which I have no doubt, it’s just his unusual corncrake grate of a voice. Sometimes, just sometimes, it works for me, and, by jingo, this is one of those times, the contrast with the strings imparting a pathos I didn’t know he had in him. OK the odd guttural hawk as it continues, making me wince and the front row of any audience duck. Nearly as good as Over the Rainbow.
Confess I only know the W.O.L.D.(ee ee ee) song for this lauded writer, deceased many a long year. Not my proverbial, I fear, being too M.O.R. (ah ah ah). Cheap gag, move on.
I wanted, I really wanted to give this a chance, trying to forget the years of horror when T. Rex were a fixture on UK TV chartshow 'Top of the Pops', my mother unfailingly asking me who he, Bolan, was, with my stock answer being that I didn’t know. In case she though it indicative of my taste. Best thing, as ever, is the Taylor/Volman backing vocals, fresh from their stint with the Mothers of Invention, with me never understanding quite why. Shame the Turtles never sang a song about, o, I don’t know, Tungsten. (Is tungsten even an element?)
Unfamiliar with these guys, and, at my first wiki I was pleasantly surprised, preparing to give this formulaic pop-punk a second chance, mistaking the noughties Philadephia “punks”, the Loved Ones, with the Australian garage band of the same name, 40 years earlier. What is yawn now would be somewhatground-breaking in ’65. But it wasn’t to be. File under old lace.
Mindful of 3 spiteful comments in a row, I really need one to like, and this, I thought, was definitely the one. The sheer unlikeliness of a song called Molybdenum automatically excused any need to consider its value. But, frustratingly, not on the youtube……. But, they did do one called Nobelium, which is, even if straying from the order I had been seeking. In fact they have more, with songs Iodine, Uranium, two Oxygens, another Titanium, Selenium and Nitrogen, all on a 2000 LP called, with little surprise, elements. Who they? Noxious Emotion is the name. I applaud the idea more than its fruition, but it’s OK. Clearly a leader in what amazon call EBM. (No, me neither, so back to wiki….) Whatever. It's OK. Really.
Now I can imagine Leonard Cohen stumbling down a track on some obscure greek island, knees smeared with iodine, having fallen from a scooter after a liason with his latest olive hued muse. Which seems actually to fit the gist of the lyric. Maybe not his pinnacle. Produced, doncha know, by Phil Spector, giving some down time fun imagining the same song sung by the Ronettes. (Works for me!)
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Brian Eno: King’s Lead Hat
If you only think of Brian Eno as the guy who does those ambient music pieces, let me introduce you to the rocking “King’s Lead Hat.” During the mid-1970s, Eno first entered the world of popular music as the synthesizer player for Roxy Music, quit the band, and then released four remarkable solo albums that mixed rock, electronic music, jazz and experimental sounds in a way that was, if not groundbreaking, was pretty damn cool. At the same time, he began to experiment with various techniques that led to the release of his ambient music, and released a series of such albums, including the legendary Music For Airports.
Before and After Science was the last of the rock-oriented albums from this period, released in 1977, and it includes ambient pieces, silly ditties, and a few rockers, none more aggressively so than “King’s Lead Hat.” Reportedly recorded, but lacking lyrics and a title, before Eno and John Cale saw an up and coming band, Talking Heads, at CBGB in New York, Eno gave the song a title that was an anagram for Talking Heads and wrote a bunch of lyrics around the title which either make no sense or are brilliant. Or both. Many Eno lyrics seem to use words more for their sound than as a vehicle for imparting meaning (like, say, this one), or to create vivid imagery. There may well be some sexual references in the lyrics of “King’s Lead Hat.” Or not.
What is clear, though, is that the music was way ahead of its time. You can certainly hear some Talking Heads in the jittery, New-Wavy sound, but you can also hear precursors of what the Talking Heads would sound like a few years later, when Eno began to produce them. And you can hear the roots of the synthesizer based pop music, that would become popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, starting with Gary Numan and exploding from there.
Not surprisingly, I had never heard Eno on the radio before working at WPRB starting in 1979, and his music was treated there with incredible reverence. We even had a show one evening, named in honor of his earlier, somewhat more experimental album, Another Green World, for music that fit into that genre of experimental, electronic, OK, I’ll say it—weird--music. One night, my friend Bill and I took over the show for a “performance” that you can read about in more detail here, along with a bunch more of my college radio reminiscences. Considering Eno’s involvement with the Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra that admitted only players who were either non-musicians, or were playing an unfamiliar instrument (Eno played clarinet), I suspect he would have been fine with my “performance.”
With the perspective of years, there are times that I think that some of the Eno worship is a bit over the top, but you can’t deny that he has produced some of the best and most popular albums ever, has made music that has influenced generations of musicians in numerous genres. And, I still enjoy his music.