Archive for September, 2007

30
Sep
07

The Kinks “Low Budget”

This record is form 1979, and really its only redeeming quality is the quality of Ray Davies’s voice– though barely even that. One pseudo-joke-blues number sounds like George Thorogood, for God sake! The only decent song on the record is “Little Bit of Emotion.”

29
Sep
07

The Kinks “Misfits”

The Kinks’ previous album, “Sleepwalker,” was from 1977, and this one is from 1978– and when I look back at records from around this time, I really feel like I can see everything starting to make a steep dip downhill, starting in ’77, then continuing on into the 1980s (and still continuing, unfortunately). I really think it has a lot to do with the last of the anarchic optimism left over from the Sixties finally evaporating, and the corporations finally taking absolute control and solidifying the regimented police state we live in now.

Over half this record is not very good, or pathetic (“Get Up”), or just plain dumb, but there STILL are some pretty great songs, and okay songs that are at least pretty fun. “Rock’n’roll Fantasy” is my favorite– it’s almost worth keeping the record for. I guess I can at least listen to the whole thing, on a tolerant day, and think about how it’s one of many records that marks this significant change in history for me.

28
Sep
07

The Kinks “Sleepwalker”

I feel like there was a huge gap between earlier Kinks stuff and this record, though I’m not sure why, since I wasn’t a Kinks fan when I was younger. I guess maybe it just seemed to me like there was a gap between EVERYTHING in 1978 and what came before it.

Anyway, this record has a surprisingly clean sound– it’s pretty enjoyable to listen to now. Side one is really good, while side two is generally bad. The best songs are “Sleepwalker,” “Brother,” and “Life On The Road.” There’s a really nice inner sleeve picture of the band– they look pretty young! Ray Davies is so pretty he could date himself!

15
Sep
07

The Kinks “The Pye History of British Pop Music”

As old as I am, The Kinks were before my time, and unfortunately I never had a “rediscovery” period with them, becaue I now wish I had some of their early albums. Anyway, in 1975 something possessed me to buy this kind of greatest hits record, put out by Pye Records– complete with extensive liner notes– by “Alan Betrock”– most of which are about Pye Records.

If someone ever really invents a time machine, I think there could be no greater use of it than to go back in time and eliminate Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” so that future generations might be able to listen to The Kinks version of that song without lurid visions of those horrible rock clowns whose only achievement was to put several more nails into the coffin of rock guitar.

My favorite songs on this record are “The World Keeps Going Round” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” which may be overly familiar, but to actually HEAR them is very pleasurable.

The other reason to keep this record is the large color photo of the band sitting on top of a convertible Buick painted in a pop-art fashion. You’ll notice that three of the four band members are holding cigarettes.

10
Sep
07

Joy Division “Closer” (part 2)

This record brings back, with frightening lucidity, Columbus, Ohio, 1982, when I lived there, which isn’t surprising since that wasn’t long after this record came out, and there were a lot of Columbus bands heavily influenced by Joy Division (or maybe just a few bands, but REALLY heavily influenced, like the Naked Skinnies), and TKA and The Offense music zine was really into JD. In a way, it bugs me, that feeling, but on the other hand it feels good.

The song “Isolation” sums up, for me, everything I hated about the 80s sound– though I can’t really say what bands I hated because I hated all of them and listened to none of them. But then the next song on the record, “Passover” just fascinates me. This is the Joy Division that I am a fan of– really minimal, repetitious, quiet yet noisy– and there’s something faintly scary about it.  “A Means to an End” is the one that reminds me of Columbus.

Side B is just TOTALLY hypnotic. The song “24 Hours” is so familiar, it’s like I just listened to it yesterday. “The Eternal” sounds like it could be a Nick Cave song. Were Joy Division and The Birthday Party playing at about the same time? I’m not sure. This is a slow, really haunting song. And then the last song, “Decades,” is the one that really kind of shocks me. How can I like this song this much after all these years? It’s pretty amazing. It’s really minimal– drums, synthesizer, minimal bass, repetitive singing– but it keeps going through these subtle changes. It is incredibly dramatic– this one song– it’s like I watched, or read, a play, or saw a really good movie. I’m obsessed with this song for awhile, and I have to listen to it every day… it’s like I’m a new fan, here in… whatever year this is.

09
Sep
07

Joy Division “Closer”

This is the only Joy Division record I owned, and I never listened to it much– I appreciated them, but wasn’t that into them (I kind of hate “Love Will Tear Us Apart”). But I decided to listen to it now, and see what I think.

(Though I also have a LATER, double album, called “Still”– released well after Ian Curtis was dead. “Still” as in “he’s still dead,” I guess. (That’s a Keith Busch style joke, for sure.) But this record is damaged beyond all playability.)

I like these Factory Records albums— extremely minimal presentation. “Closer” doesn’t even say which is side A or B– so I have to look at the pressing codes, scratched in the space on the inside of the grooves (it will always say A or B somewhere in there) –and in doing so, I notice that there is a strange little cartoon creature scratched in there, too. It’s a little cartoon bird, I guess– on each side of the record. A little different on each side. Who did that, I wonder? And what does it mean?

So I FINALLY figure out which is side A and put it on. I feel like I am TOTALLY familiar with Joy Division, but on the other hand– am I? My first observation is, “They took themselves a tad seriously, didn’t they?” Then I fell asleep!

It wasn’t until the next night that I actually listened to the whole record. Did I love it? Did I hate it? I’m going to wait until later to announce the verdict, so stay tuned!

05
Sep
07

Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

This was the only EJ record (from 1973) that I owned when I was younger– and I was kind of obsessed with it. I still think of it as a triple record (but it’s a double record)  because it folds out in three– there are drawings and illustrations inside with the lyrics for each song. I was especially fascinated with the pictures of the band– how effeminate they all looked (including Bernie Taupin, absurdly in a cemetery with a puppy!), except for Elton. To me he looked like the coolest guy ever. I especially loved this brown suit he’s wearing (along with platform shoes). I wanted a suit like that!

This is by far my favorite Elton John record. The first side is pretty over the top– “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”– that’s quite an opening. Then “Candle in the Wind” which is a very pretty song. I wrote a story called “Learning to Play the Piano” that is a version of this song– though I only realized later the subconscious connection between the piano reference (and homoerotic elements of the story) and Elton John. Then “Bennie and the Jets” which is one of those songs that I connect so strongly with a sense of time and place. I was 13, I suppose, and my friends and I would ride our bikes to the “T” Drive-In and order pizza, buy cigarettes (Larks) from the machine, and play this song on the jukebox (as well as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”). I should probably hate this song, all that “B-B-B-Benny and the Jetsssssss” and “electric boots” (though we thought, for quite some time, he was singing “electric BOOBS”) and “I read it in a MAG-A-ZIYE-EEEN.” But I just still really love this song.

Side Two starts with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”– another song I should hate, with all that “back to that howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny black TAWD” nonsense, and that city boy vs. country boy bullshit– but it’s a really pretty song, and still makes me kind of emotional. This is another song that sounds to me like a dialogue between EJ and Bernie Taupin– some kind of conflict in which something amorous is implied.

Other highlights on this album are “Dirty Little Girl” and “All the Girls Love Alice” which are pretty heavy songs, pretty sexy and dangerous sounding, and they kind of blew my mind as a 13 year old. Another nice pairing is “Your Sister Can’t Twist” (which is an all-out, fast Farfisa, old rock song) that goes directly into, and really enhances, “Saturday Night’s Alright…” That song was pretty much an anthem to me and my gang, with our cigarettes, and (pseudo) switchblades, and mini-bikes, and experiments with crime and drinking. And then “Social Disease” is a fun song about alcoholism– you could tell he didn’t take it too seriously yet– after all, EJ was still young at this time, too.

Even the lesser songs on this record are pretty good. I can and willingly do, still sit down and listen to it from beginning to end. It’s just one of those old records, for me, that I’ll always love. I guess that’s the power of nostalgia, once again. Or maybe it is really good– I don’t know.




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