Monthly Archives: January 2010

260. Bob Dylan – “Another Side of Bob Dylan”

Bob Dylan is one of the music legends that hovers around any discussion of influencers, innovators etc, and one of the few such icons to grace my CD shelves.

Album cover CD Another Side of Bob Dylan

I picked up this album because I wanted to hear what all the fuss was about (beyond having the most parody-prone vocal style in all of popular music). I was also a big fan of one track (Motorpsycho Nightmare) which was regularly covered by local live stalwarts Dan & Al.  

It seems I picked a winner.  Each track on here is packed fill of fantastic couplets and imagery.

Bob reveals himself to be a funny chap. The aforementioned track a hilarious take on the old farmer’s daughter yarn.  He tops it with the rollicking I Shall Be Free No. 10 chock full of Ali-mimicking boasts that get increasingly ridiculous.

He also delivers his big folky political commentary epics (i.e. Chimes of Freedom), romance (Spanish Harlem Incident), lovelornness (I Don’t Believe You…) and some great stompy acoustic blues (Black Crow Blues).

This is an artist bursting with creativity.  Beyond the specificity of some political commentary, this an album that still sounds fresh and exciting.

File under: Get on side

259. Dub Narcotic Sound System meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Sideways Soul…”

The full title of this album is a mouthful: “Sideways Soul: Dub Narcotic Sound System meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in a Dancehall Style”.

Album cover CD Sideways Soul Dub Narcotic Sound System meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in a Dancehall StyleI’m typically pretty dismissive of such lengthy titles, but at least this one is informative. The meeting of minds here is a wonderful combo.

Calvin and Co’s pop sensibilities hook up with the filthy, sloppy blues grooves of Spencer and his buddies in what must have been some action-packed recording sessions.

It sounds like we stepped in near the end of a pretty wild, yet laid-back party, where some close and talented friends are taking the piss out of their shared acquaintances.  There are loads of in-jokes and adaptations of well-known lyrics.  Johnson’s vocals are hilarious and seemingly effortless.  The band get a series of funny intros.

Fudgy the Whale is 10 mins of lazy beats and all of the above elements:

I’ve been listening to this while chilling at a Thai resort occupied by a British version of the cast of Cocoon. I’ve kept this album inside my headphones lest I cause a spate of broken hips as my fellow guests find the grooves irresistable. It’s their loss.

File under: This soul is how I roll

258. Dub Narcotic Sound System – “Out of Your Mind”

I’ve been silent for the past couple of days as I transitioned from the hurley burley of Bangkok to the ludicrously laid-back vibe of the island of Koh Samui.

Album cover CD Dub Narcotic Sound System Out of Your MindThe soundtrack of this neck of the woods seems to be ocean waves, motor scooters, jetskis, Bob Marley and (inevitably?) Jack Johnson.

This bass-heavy work from Calvin Johnson alas does not get much airtime.  It is a little more layered and funky than necessary for these environs.  I suspect it would have worked much better in the visual smorgasboard and mash up of the nation’s capital.

The approach on this album is rare (at least for my collection). Guitars are set up almost in opposition to basslines, with the latter given much more ammunition.  Johnson then piles on some pretty much spoken word vocals. It is a little like Beck’s early work, but with none of the folk pretences.

Sometimes this patchworking comes together brilliantly.  The title track here (with some saucy female vocals) is a treat.  Most of the tracks are very listenable and not too jarring.  Occasionally the din outweighs the groove.

I suspect this album was loads of fun to make, and that it would work better live.

File under: Not hammock music…

257. Drive-By Truckers – “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark”

Listening to this trio of releases from the DBTs has been a strange journey.

I was taken with the raucousness of album #1.  The MOR #2 was pretty hit and miss.  And this one is a curious middle ground.

The vibe is much more country than the predecessors – country of a mature, slow-paced nature. So we’re talking laments and tales of woe.

It doesn’t have the energy and aggression of #1, and I must say that was the DBT incarnation that got my blood flowing and my excitement levels up.  Instead of picturing them in a dangerous bar (with chicken-wire) belting it out with abandon, now I see me seated, slowly sipping a beer and swaying along on a wave of their luscious tunes and entertaining tales.

So, I’m pretty happy with this one.  Female lead vocals on three tracks is a nice addition, and it breaks up with it is a long albums (19 tracks in all).

If I’d never heard The Dirty South, I’d perhaps view this album as classic.  So, give it a listen.

File under: Not so bright I’d need shades

256. Drive-By Truckers – “A Blessing and a Curse”

The shift in style between the DBT’s Dirty South and this follow-up is quite stunning.

If wasn’t for the distinctive vocals I wouldn’t pick it as the same band. Gone is the grimy Southern rock and finely crafted tales.  In its place is a much more mainstream, MOR rock approach. It’s a damn shame.

That previous release was a gem, while this could be a long list of bands (most of whom I wouldn’t cross the street to check out). Does the world really need another Tom Petty sound-alike outfit?

There are big bright glimmers of hope, however.  Track 2, Gravity’s Gone is a fantastic piece of songwriting very well executed.

Likewise, Aftermath USA, is a classy variation on the “woke up this morning” standard.  It certainly seems like there was quite a party around their place:

Those two tracks are the real exceptions on here, and coincidently the tunes where they most sound like their touring buddies The Hold Steady.

I am intrigued to give their next album another listen.  I was convinced this was one of the bands I needed to see and embrace live, but now I’m a little less enthused (but only  little).

File under: I’m leaning towards curse

255. Drive-By Truckers – “Dirty South”

This is the first album I have reviewed thus far that I only own in download form.

drive-by truckers album cover the-dirty-southThat seems rather inappropriate somehow, as these guys seem a long way removed from anything digital and new-fangled. This is rootsy Southern rock of the highest order.

This particular album is a thematically consistent collection.  All the tracks tell tales of life down South, with a strong emphasis on the seedy and downtrodden.  The trio of tracks about various crims dealing with a Sheriff of some renown (The Boys From Alabama, Cottonseed, and The Buford Stick all about Buford Pusser) are particularly captivating.

The band is happy to name-check prominent Southerners. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and  Sam Phillips all get a run.

This some wonderful hybrid of Springsteen and Earle in terms of story-weaving, with a sleazy, bar-room feel to the triple guitar backing. The vitriol on PuttinPeople on the Moon would do either aforementioned artists proud:

The one ‘happy’ tune on here, about the joys of car-racing (Daddy’s Cup) almost gets me craving a steering wheel.

It is unforgivable that I am yet to catch these guys live.

File under: Dirty but Beautiful South

254. Tanya Donelly – “Lovesongs for Underdogs”

I return to the world of female vocals, this time on the solo debut of one-time Throwing Muse, Breeder and Belly-er, Tanya Donelly.

album cover lovesongs for underdogs Tanya Donelly Donnely Throwing Muses BellyDonelly has one of those voices anyone with a familiar with US (and indeed British) indie pop of the late 80s and early 90s will recognise.  She was the one who wrote the more mainstream material for the Muses, and delivered the big hits for grrl supergroup Belly.

After many years with said outfits, she finally popped this little CD out.

It is a curious beast – much less rocky than her band work, more polished, and more folk-poppy (although there are moments were she kicks out a bit such as Landspeed Song and the opening track Pretty Deep is a gem of mid-1990s powerpop).

There is a slight same-same thread running through many of the songs, such that they meld into each other a little, but the quality is sufficiently high to keep me engaged.

She lacks the overt angst of Juliana Hatfield, the battiness of the Deal sisters, or the boundary-pushing of Liz Phair.  The niche she has built is one I enjoy, however.

File under: Benign canine designs

253. DJ Shadow – “The Private Press”

So I gave this album a spin while traipsing around the largest market I’ve ever seen (Chatuchak Market in Bangkok).

album cover dj shadow-the-private-pressIt worked perfectly as a buffer against any pleas of “try”, “cheap, cheap”, “love you long time” etc that might have been coming my way.

While I was still bombarded by a myriad of sights (and smells), DJ Shadow was soothing me with his (slightly) more gentle pastiche of sounds.

They were a perfect combination.  So much of what I was witnessing was an intersection of various worlds (East and West, traditional and modern, spiritual and consumerist).  And being Thailand, there was no shortage of “borrowed” ideas, and clever (although not always deliberate) reinterpretations of familiar designs.

That is very much were DJ Shadow is coming from – reshaping and reimagining sounds from across genres.

As an album this is more beat heavy and faster tempoed than its predecessor. But it is still more of a daytime headspace party than one you’d invite your friends along to.

I just learned that the most upbeat track on here was remixed for The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, which featured the sort of driving I think most Bangkok residents would love to try if everyone else would just get off the roads:

File under: Join the Press Gang

252. DJ Shadow – “Endtroducing…”

I spent several hours yesterday on a bus travelling out and back to the bridge on the River Kwai. Part of my journey was spent in the company of Mr. Shadow and his enormous record collection.

DJ Shadow is reported to have over 60,000 records in his collection.  So if he embarked upon my mission, he’d be looking at approximately a 164 year timeframe.

This, his debut effort, is a headphone joy. His waves of samples, his humour and his experimentation swirl around your head and distract you from the Bangkok gridlock and the monotony of endless truck part shops.

This is in the same vein as (and was presumably an inspiration for) The Avalanchesdebut.  It doesn’t have the self-conscious frivolity of the Aussie lads’ effort, nor does it chase any dance floor glory, although this candidate no doubt does the trick:

This stuff has been labelled “trip hop” and it seems an apt label.  It is very much a chilled-out, relax and imbibe vibe.  There is nothing lazy or rushed about the sound collages here.  Everything feels like it belongs.

Let’s see if his follow-up can handle some Bangkok wandering…

File under: Aural découpage

251. The Dixie Chicks – “Top of the World Tour: Live”

From one politically conscious artist to another…

This double live release surfaced in our collection care of my missus’ adventurous purchasing.  I presume she has heard good things from her twang-loving mother (who, unlike us, has a country music TV channel at her regular disposal).

I was all prepared to get all sarcastic in this review, mocking the earnestness and schmaltz of stadium country-rock.

But I have to be honest and say this album was a lot better than I expected.  The trio have a good ear for a hook, and deliver some pretty palatable tales of life in struggletown.

There is a strong leaning towards the “Joe went off fight in a war and now he kicks the dog” sentiment, but, hey, that is the experience of many in the white trash community, and these gals pull the right heartstrings.

The sound quality and musicianship on here is pretty slick too.  I’m not sure I’d necessarily be rushing out to see them on the big stage, but I won’t  necessarily flick channels next time I’m watching CMT at the in-laws.

File under: Worth whistling