“I actually saw Pavement at their mid-90s peak, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t paying much attention. I guess I’d pretty much had it with so-called ROCK music at the time, for which I’d blame Grunge mostly, all that flannel and kerranging and ponderous sincerity. But jump ahead maybe five years to the end of the century and I guess I was finally ready for the beer-in-one-hand-joint-in-the-other shambolic genius of Stephen Malkmus and his crowd, everything crystallizing in the lead-off track from 1994’s Crooked Rain Crooked Rain – a full minute of sloppy mucking around, chasing first a groove, then a melody, before the song finally finds itself (and in fact, the melody’s a direct rip-off of an old Buddy Holly tune) but man does it click! But is it a Silent Kit or a Silent Kid? Or am I fool to even wonder?” (Philip Random)
“I found this Buck Owens cover of a Simon + Garfunkel nugget in a Cache Creek, British Columbia thrift store, mid-90s sometime. An entire album of electrified countrified takes on some of that hippie sh** the kids were so into at the time (1971). And delivered with all due sincerity, because don’t fool yourself. Nobody knows lonely like a one man island, or a Country + Western superstar.” (Philip Random)
Known as the English Beat in the Americas, the British Beat in the Australia, The Beat were a big part of the groovy side of the so-called post-punk/new wave era, certainly at home in Britain, with the dub mix of Mirror in the Bathroom a nifty little number that was effective on the dance floor, in the background at parties, in the car whilst negotiating traffic. Which has always been the special appeal of dub to me – music which is mostly absent words, yet moving in a particular direction anyway. Something to do with sound-tracking the ongoing corrosion of the so-called Western World. And it’s fun.
Are the Rolling Stones the most overrated rock and roll band ever? Maybe. But for a solid ten or twelve years, no matter how messed up things got in their camp, no matter who was dying, getting arrested, nodding off, almost choking on their own puke, there was always a new album, every year, and they were always at least good. But it should have all ended in 1974 with It’s Only Rock And Roll. Not that they didn’t still have a few choice moments left in them, but in terms of proper swan songs, nothing was going to say it as succinctly – we’ve done our time, we’ve played our various hands, it’s all just rock and roll anyway. Though Fingerprint File is hinting at something more — funky, groovy, tense, whispering of surveillance and paranoia, all secrecy, no privacy. Like a long tense night, no sleep, no end in sight.
“Two tracks from the first The The album that I’ve always thought of as one, because of how they flow together. Although technically, Burning Blue Soul is not a The The album as it was initially released as a Matt Johnson solo album. But nobody really heard it, so after the success of Soul Mining, it got repackaged for a bit of cash-in, which isn’t as bad as it sounds because The The was always pretty much just Matt Johnson anyway. Either way, Burning Blue Soul is a darned fine album, a dense and connected and beautiful flow, even with all the noise and chunks of rusted metal just left lying around — an essential piece of soundtrack from a movie about the ongoing decline and fall of the British Empire that no one’s gotten around to making yet. But they will someday.” (Philip Random)
In which Marianne Faithfull takes a then obscure song written by the same guy who gave us Boy Named Sue and Cover of the Rolling Stone and delivers what some have since hailed as a feminist anthem. Philip Random remembers it first really grabbing him via the movie Montenegro “… that I tend to assume everyone’s seen but hardly anyone actually has. It’s the one where Susan Anspach, wealthy housewife, bored to the point of insanity, finally just bails one day, splits suburbia and her husband and kids, and somehow ends up hanging with some savage eastern European types still playing out blood feuds older than recorded history. It’s a strange movie, disorienting, intense. Anyway, the Ballad Of Lucy Jordan is the song that sends her on her weird journey, inspires her. Finally, she will return to her happy family, except (spoiler alert) the fruit was poisoned.”
Apparently, Buffalo Springfield are the greatest band nobody’s ever properly heard, unless you were lucky enough to catch them live way back when, with the psychedelic 60s ripping a hole through time. Neil Young and Stephen Stills (and the other guys), brash and wild and still mostly unknown, desperate to be heard, to wake people the f*** up. The records just don’t capture that. They’re too restrained, too produced, which isn’t to say they don’t have some moments, just lacking that overall carnivorous bite.
“In which Laurie Anderson reminds us that sometimes you’ve just gotta go with your intuition. If you see a guy and he looks like a hat check clerk, he is a hat check clerk. And everything that suggests. To which I must add, I have no idea what that is. And I doubt Laurie Anderson did either, early 1980s, just rolling with the zeitgeist which she was in the process of turning inside out with her strange gear and her stranger stories. And the pinks of the world are still trying to make sense of it. Stop making sense.” (Philip Random)