Archive for the 'Stoner Album Covers' Category

24
Jan
18

The Flaming Lips “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”

I was excited to see a Flaming Lips record in the rustic cabin, because I think they intrigue me but I’ve never settled on forming a real opinion of them—first of all, I always get them mixed up with that other band with “flaming” in their name, and the band with “lips” in their name, though I’m sure none of these bands are anything alike. This is the one with that guy, Wayne Coyne, as the main guy, who I think I might recognize if I saw him on the street—he’s got a distinctive look which kind of reminds me of Toecutter from the first Mad Max movie (which is a weird person to take your look from—I think most people would go for Max, or “The Goose,” or Bubba Zanetti—but not Toecutter). This is a band I feel like I could have been in—or a band I was in could have been similar—I mean in just going on and on, evolving, but staying in their own world, to some degree. Internet tells me they formed in 1983 in Oklahoma City, and I started a band in 1983 in Ohio, which was one of the bands I was in that I felt could have gotten a record contract, all that nonsense (of course, I quit after a year, so I would have just been that guy who was in the first version and disappeared, anyway). I think I saw a documentary about The Flaming Lips, or maybe it was just some extended interview with Wayne Coyne, but anyway, from what I remember, they have some kind of hangout or headquarters in OK City, with people coming and going, and lots of music and creativity—it was kind of inspiring, though I wondered if there was any way into that world, or if it was kind of insular (because of how famous they are now), and I really wondered what this Wayne Coyne is like. I also wonder if, in a band like that, where there are other longtime members and creative forces, it gets kind of annoying when there is this very distinctive “main guy.”

This record is great, I’m really enjoying it. I suppose if someone had asked me if I was a fan of this band I would have said yes (before saying, “Well, I’m not sure, actually”)—so it’s no surprise. This is pop music, but I guess it’s verging on, or in some cases is fully what people call “psychedelia”—which, I think, often gets mixed up—I mean as a musical style—with a larger category of psychedelia, which would include all psychedelic art, and also lifestyle, drug use, etc. This record sounds pretty timeless to me, like it could have come out when there was a lot of psychedelic music in the Sixties, or the Seventies, or essentially any time since. This, however, came out in 2002, a date which now means nothing to me culturally, even though it’s now officially long ago. This album was “remastered” and re-released in 2011. I’m assuming remastered because it was originally a CD only?—or maybe because it was originally mastered poorly? The whole remastering thing kind of freaks me out, but if it sounds good now, it sounds good, which it does. The cover is a drawing of what looks like Gumby, but with a cropped head (haircut) and sprouting legs from his legs—and pink. I’m assuming this is a pink robot, and there is a small girl confronting him, and I assume that’s Yoshimi.

I suppose I should listen to some of the lyrics, since there’s a sheet and I can follow along, and I’d enjoy listening to it over, and it seems like there might be a theme here, or maybe this is another one of those “rock operas.” Okay, I can’t really get into the lyrics—that wasn’t a good idea. I mean, the lyrics are fine, they’re good, but I’m not in the mood to become immersed in a story that’s quite literally about a Japanese girl and some evil pink robots. It reminds me of what I don’t like about a lot of science fiction, and that’s the science fiction. Not that that’s the only thing here, there is also much about love, human relationships, and that’s all timeless. There’s something else, too, between the lines, in the synthesis of it all, but I don’t have the patience for that. I’ve got wood to chop and stack. But before I go, I want to re-emphasize—there is some weird and beautiful music on this record, and it could he the start of me venturing in the direction of being the huge Flaming Lips fan I always should have been.

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23
Jan
18

Pink Floyd “The Wall”

I am on vacation in the “North Woods” once again, but this time staying at a place with the internet, so I can’t use ignorance as an excuse like last year, but I’m also only here for a few days—at this rustic cabin with a stereo system and some vinyl records—enough records, in fact, to overwhelm me a little; I just spent an hour trying to devise a random system for picking out a record, but seeing how my time is limited, I decided instead to just browse through until I see one I’m curious to hear, then write about that—but limiting my writing time to the time it takes to play. The first thing that caught my eye was Pink Floyd’s 1979 LP The Wall, which I’m sure many of my contemporaries know backwards, but I’ve never actually dropped a needle on, as it came out after the Pink Floyd had fallen out of my favor—for whatever reason. I loved this band a decade earlier—if I’d been asked to guess, I’d have guessed this record was from the Eighties, but not quite. The cover, which is a simple depiction of a brick wall, is more depressing than oppressive, and as it’s a double album, the inside reveals the wall being penetrated by some stoner art, which is little relief. Most of this I feel like I’ve never heard before, so that’s interesting, but it sounds, naturally, like Pink Floyd. The song, “Another Brick In The Wall,” however, I’m more than familiar with, and it’s a song, if I reached the end of my life without ever hearing it again, that’d be just fine.

It’s funny, I was thinking about this record earlier today while I was getting my tire fixed in a remote survivalist style outpost up here, while CNN played silently but closed-captioned and I happened to see the news of this Trump character’s “tweet” about “the wall” he wants to build—seemingly desperately, at the Mexico border. It was my impression that Trump apologists, wanting to alleviate his apparent insanity, keep scrambling to explain that he’s on one hand a “street fighter” who just can’t help his crude and offensive speech, while on the other he’s a sophisticated user of metaphor, and when he talks about “the wall” it merely means “security.” This explanation, however, seemed to enrage him, and he tweeted, “The Wall is the Wall”—emphasizing that no, he means an actual physical structure. This got me thinking about this record, and wondering what it all meant, since I didn’t get immersed in it back in the day. I don’t think this is the time for me to find out what it’s about though, because I’m just listening to it once through, without focusing on the lyrics—which are actually printed on the inner sleeves, though all but unreadable, in a font that might be called “Ralph Steadman.”

It’s weird—in a way, this doesn’t sound like Pink Floyd to me—in a way. Didn’t the band members start feuding with each other at some point?—could this be the beginning of that, or the result of it? Okay, here’s a beautiful song—it’s the first one that grabbed me—called “Comfortably Numb.” This band can put together a lovely pop ballad when they want to, that’s for sure. I realize I’m being kind of dismissive of this record, which I’m sure for some people, this was the record of their youth. It’s okay, call me an idiot. Anyway, thinking about the Trump Wall got me wondering about the similarities of the Reagan years (which this record butted into) with the times we’re now suffering through. I just mean—the support of Reagan—who was obviously brain dead for much of his presidency—if only because of the blanket of power he provided those bastards. I suppose one thing all presidents want is to build monuments to themselves, which maybe isn’t so different than rock stars. But Trump wanting to build this actual wall as a monument to him—that would almost be refreshing, in it’s simplicity and stupidity, if it wasn’t so depressing and frightening.

11
Jan
18

Endless Boogie “Focus Level”

Another double album, though there are only 11 long songs, some mostly instrumental, and some with singing that reminds me a little of the Chinese Electrical Band (my first band, not at all Chinese). I can’t make out a single lyric to save my life. The cover opens up to reveal, inside, a huge painting of a party consisting of a bunch of young people in an era several centuries past; it actually looks to me like a computer generated photo collage treated to look like a painting, but I don’t know, really, and honestly don’t care; I kind of like it, but then there was always something annoying to me about albums that opened to reveal more art—you’ve got the front and back cover! And then there is one of those annoying one sheet inserts for the credits, but it’s mostly more art and tells you very little, like who’s in this band and playing what?

Or who is even in the band. I heard one of these guys—or was it two?—or is there only one?—on the WTF podcast and it was pretty interesting, but I don’t remember any of the details. I’m not supposed to remember things, that’s what the internet is for! Anyway, some of these songs make me think of an annoying roommate who you want to take the guitar away from. But then some of them remind me of the first few times I went to see punk bands in Cleveland (at the Drome) and some of them sounded more like hard rock than punk, but that was okay because it was pretty severe, and heavy, and it was live. And then some of the other songs make me think of high school, going to see a local hard rock cover band at the marina or the county fair; one of those bands who has a cobbled together, homemade “light show” and is playing stuff like that “Slow ride, take it easy,” song (Foghat?) and that “Now you’re messin’ with a… sonofabitch,” song (Nazareth?)—not that any of this is a bad thing, it’s all about positive and visceral memories. In fact, those county fair bands made a much bigger impression on me than Blue Oyster Cult at a sports arena, capacity 12 billion. I thought BOC were pretty wanky, actually, though the bad pot didn’t help, nor the fact that they followed Bob Seger and ZZ Top. Anyway, I really like a lot of this stuff. There’s a fine line between wankiness and art, and if you take the chance to be wanky, sometimes, you might be able to make art you wouldn’t have been able to come up with if you didn’t venture into wankyville.

31
Oct
17

The Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra “Chariots of the Gods”

This is the 1974 soundtrack album for the 1970 movie by the same name, which was based on the 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods?—which was an international bestseller that, for years, you used to see wherever you’d see used paperbacks. Roughly, about the theory that extraterrestrials came to Earth in ancient times and influenced our culture (which would explain a lot, especially if they brought along cats). I feel like we might have seen the movie at some point in high school—projected in a classroom in 16mm, which we did occasionally—but I’m not sure. If we did see it, I guess it wasn’t as memorable as Highways of Agony.

But it’s the soundtrack album, by German composer Peter Thomas, that I’m interested in here. On the cover, I believe, are images from the movie poster, with an Easter Island head watching a Saturn rocket take off over the Great Pyramids, etc. It’s got 19 tracks, with titles like “Popular Myth and Destruction of Sodom” and “Rocket Science,” and is somewhat a journey in itself. It’s kind of hard to get a handle on since it’s all over the place, though that probably is a reflection of the movie. Maybe the easiest way for me to come to terms with this record is to go track by track and describe my own movie, based on the feelings each of these compositions conjures in my imagination. For simplicity’s sake I’m not going to name each track, but go by number, and we’ll call the movie: The Chariot of Speen.

Side A, Track 1 finds our hero waking up with a wicked hangover, complete with flashbacks of the time he fell in love with the neighbor girl who was four years older (he was 12). A2 sounds like he’s at the dentist, and it must have been pulling wisdom teeth because a radical shift in tone takes him crossing the desert with Peter O’Toole and camels, and every time someone hits that gong there is a human (or camel) sacrifice. A3 is much lighter, thankfully, maybe riding a bike, at least until the post-traumatic flashbacks kick in. A4 has us looking out over the plain, maybe counting windmills or oil-wells, or maybe just mirages. Yes, it was all merely an illusion. A5 begins with graduation day and tricks us, because it ends there, too. A6 is that ephemeral space between remembering and not remembering that you’re not remembering. A7 evokes that feeling of being in a public place with absolutely no connection to humans. A8 is walking music, when everything is groovy, people in your neighborhood respect you, and you occasionally stop to tie your shoes (way too often, actually). A9 is driving music, and it would have to be in a convertible, with blue skies, and above the blue Mediterranean, on those twisty roads that people survive in movies but not always in real life.

Side B, Track 1 gets us back on track with the main theme, in this case soaring overhead, presumably in some kind of contraption and not just disembodied. B2 evokes the nightmare of the Industrial Revolution, or it might just be enduring a night of indigestion. B3 finds our hero in love, naturally all too fleeting. B4 is that always hilarious joke, “I think we should see other people.” B5 is more either eternal life or eternal nothingness, which I guess are two sides of the same coin. B6, for whatever reason, has us shopping in a sunny market, maybe with a Warren Oates character, exploiting our superior exchange rates. B7 is walking among the unburied dead, wiping away sticky cobwebs that block the path, and the horror is acute but brief. B8 is that one scene in the movie with “the man with no name” (who eventually kills everyone) where he isn’t killing anyone, but rather finding innocence and beauty in the unblemished face of a ravishing international starlet who is unfortunately underage and about to be (in the movie) brutally raped and slain. B9 is the same guy, heading off to meet his destiny, on horseback (minus the destiny). B10 is our hero (who never sailed a day in his life) piloting a sleek sailing ship, staring off over the blue horizon, thinking about dinner.

01
Sep
17

Mama Cass “Dream a Little Dream”

I picked up this record because I’m a huge fan of The Mamas & The Papas—it came out in 1968, and I guess it was her first solo record after they broke up—and I love Cass Elliot’s singing—and there’s a formidable list of songwriter credits—John Simon, John Sebastian, Richard Manuel, Leonard Cohen, Graham Nash, and more. The cover is a nice photo of her with a little kid on a Norton motorcycle, which is (as is the back cover photo) collaged and altered in a kind of sloppy, drug-addled (or seemingly), hippie-art style.

It’s a frustrating record because some of it so good you want to keep playing it, and some so off-putting you want to never put it on again. “Dream a Little Dream” is what you’d expect, and then a John Hartford song called “California Earthquake” is excellent. The song after that, with the intriguing title of “The Room Nobody Lives In,” is odd, kind of like: “We’re now in a musical!” “Talkin’ to Your Toothbrush” is another nice one, but then “Blues for Breakfast,” (one of my favorite songs from The Basement Tapes) is sped up and jaunty, in a kind of musical review style, not good at all, and it’s a song I love, so that’s sad. Finally, “You Know Who I Am,” manages to start out being soulful, and then falter into a style that sounds like it’s an overblown production number from a TV special. Side two is similar (and I’m not going through it song by song) in that it wavers between excellent and annoying, from song to song, and even in the middle of the same song, from verse to chorus—even from instrument to instrument. Kind of a frustrating record overall. On one hand, I want to donate it to my thrift store, and on the other, I want to keep it, so I can forget it, and then have this whole frustrating experience over again someday.

23
Aug
17

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin IV”

I’ve got a new random number system for picking out records to write about, by the way, so there is no other reason for me putting this one on than that, though I still do thoroughly enjoy it—one of the more overplayed rock records of all time—every time I hear it. I don’t really need to talk about the songs or the music with this one, do I? My dream would be to meet someone who has never heard this record, then play it for them a few times while we talk about it and I take notes. But in what cave am I going to meet this person? My favorite song, no hesitation, is “Misty Mountain Hop”—one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs—especially the, “Baby, baby, baby do you like it,” part.

One of the funniest things is the disagreement over the title of this 1971 LP, the band’s fourth. I’m calling it, here, Led Zeppelin IV, as that, I think, is the most common way to refer to it, and what Wikipedia calls it. Discogs, however, insists that is has no title, which I guess is technically correct, but to call something “Untitled” strikes me as asinine, and that goes for anyone who has an artwork or something without a title, because then “Untitled” becomes the title and it’s no longer untitled. So please, people, title your shit. It just occurred to me, that since I’m writing about this now, in 2017, I may as well assign it a new title, and maybe it will catch on. I’ll think about this as I proceed.

I’m sure the album cover is considered some kind of a classic album cover, but I never liked it (except for there being no words on it), but when you open it up and look at the entire composition—the bleak landscape on the left, and crumbling wall with the painting hung on it in the foreground—it’s really pretty great. So I guess in that sense, I like it, which is more than I can say for the stupid stoner drawing on the inside, with a wizard standing on a rocky cliff looking down on a town (or maybe on a small, ragged figure of indeterminate gender, in the foreground). So little have I ever cared for this drawing, I feel like this is the first time I’m really looking at it. How many bags of weed have been consumed while the intricate, unrealistic rocks have been examined for hidden images and meanings? However, I just noticed, for the first time, that little white goat, grazing on an elevated plateau. I’m pretty certain the answer to the mystery lies there.

Okay, I’ve got it. Since this might be the most “Speenish”—(i.e., my last name, as an adjective, meaning the distillation of the R. Speen essence (sometimes, though not to be, confused with patchouli and burning sage))—of all popular rock ‘n’ roll records, I’m going to officially, as of this date forward, name this record: Led Zeppelin Speen.

20
Aug
17

Ramal LaMarr “Omens, Oracles & Mysticisms of Dance”

It’s not easy to find anything about Ramal LaMarr on the internet, and though, of course, I could dig deeper, I’m not sure if I want to, because I’m looking while listening to this record and starting to get the heebie-jeebies, because it sounds a lot like the music one would listen to while performing human sacrifices. I don’t know why I think that, really—I must have seen too many human sacrifice movies, though I can’t recall ever having seeing any. That level of creepiness is not my thing, really, though it’s kind of fun thinking about in relation to this record. The cover looks creepily homemade, with cut-out images of a belly dancer and a guy (Ramal?) who is wearing what looks like some kind of Satanic garb. The images seem to have been cut out with a very sharp knife (sharp enough to cut out a human heart?) and placed on a background that looks like a wall mural for a Middle-Eastern restaurant. There’s a feeling of finality to it, like the name of the album sounds like it could be his first, second, and final record all in one. Also, it’s very long, like nearly an hour in length, which… I guess if you’re in the middle of a human sacrifice you don’t want to have to stop and turn over the record.

Though maybe I’m overthinking things—the internet says he put out a couple of records after this one, and they all do have “dance” in the title; maybe this is essentially belly dance music. Which is what it sounds like, though on the sinister end of that spectrum. It’s from 1983, and the label is “Lotus”—out of Milwaukee. It’s instrumental, consisting mostly of synthesizer and percussion. Credits indicate that Ramal LaMarr plays everything except “Zills”—which are credited to “Chandrani”—who I’m guessing might be the belly dancer on the cover. Besides synth and bass, there are Arabian Drums, Kanoon, and Mbira listed. A few songs end with a really kind of creepy and ominous gong. As I listen to the whole record again while typing this, it’s actually starting to grow on me; it’s somewhat soothing on one hand, and kind of trance-inducing on another, and kind of anxiety producing on another. I know that’s three hands—thus the anxiety, I guess. But really, I could see this as really good music for writing, making love, or preparing an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner while the in-laws sit nervously in the next room sipping Brandy Alexanders, wondering just who their daughter got herself mixed up with this time.




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