Monthly Archives: April 2010

308. The Flaming Lips – “Clouds Taste Metallic”

This Flaming Lips fest is both exhilarating and exhausting, and I’m only two albums in.

These guys pack a lot of ideas into a given song.  While the tunes are still principally guitar-driven, each track is heavily layered. This album steps away from the shoe-gazerness of the previous release in my collection. 

The psychedelia is still right upfront, with Wayne Coyne pondering the expanses of the universe, the human mind and a whole lot of other things only coherent to him (if anyone). The strings (guitar, piano or simulated) wash around his rough, urgent vocals.

Again, the band surprise me with their relative discipline on this collection.  I erroneously pigeon-holed them as want to flights of fancy, but heard in context, each track makes aural sense.  Thankfully the lads keep away from the looping machine.

My only substantive criticism is the sheer overwhelmingness of these albums.  It is hard to digest it all in a day of listening.  But I’ll keep trying.

File under: Cop a’ earful

307. The Flaming Lips – “Hit to Death in the Future Head”

Like much of the Western world I jumped on board the Flaming Lips Express after their 2002 …Robots album.  At a gig on that tour I picked up a three pack of their earlier stuff.  This is the first of those three albums.

This is a surprising album.  I approached it with some trepidation, given that the standard backstory to Wayne Coyne and co seems to be that they have always been a little self-indulgent and unpredictable, and that they only really got their shit together in the 2000s.

I was therefore fearing some Butthole Surfers-type doodling.  Instead, I found an album that sounds more British shoegazer than Oklahoma tripsters.

With swirling, layered guitars providing rhythms for swirling, layered vocals, some of the tracks on here (e.g. The Magician vs. the Headache) would feel right at home on a Ride or Swervedriver release (both are compliments).

The album is consistently interesting and Coyne gets some interesting sounds going.  Now, if only they hadn’t included that 29 min hidden dirge loop at the end, I’d like it more…

I will need to delete said track from my iTunes.

File under: Justifiable battery   

306. Five Eight – “Gasolina!”

This a band I know so very little about. I think I may have bought this CD second-hand on the recommendation of a buddy back in the mid-90s.

Album Cover five eight gasolina! CD reviewThe album is a snapshot of a world that doesn’t really exist anymore, for this decrepit 38 year old anyway.

Five Eight sprung from somewhere in the States, probably a college town. They take the more power pop side of Husker Du and presage the much more successful sound of Weezer.

They deliver a series of guitar-driven tunes, typically chronicling early 20s apathy and late teen misdemeanors. It is classic slacker rock, but of the shorter haired variety.

Stanley is the most successful effort. A few too many tracks sound like the faux skate punk Blink 182 ‘were to ‘master’ later.

The album is dated also by a ‘where I was when I heard Kurt topped himself’ tale, but at least the ambivalent vibe is retained with a ‘whatever’ tone…

Perhaps bands are still mining this rich musical vein, but for me this sits alongside Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads and a few others as my mid-20s indulgence.

File under: Some rugby pun

305. Ella Fitzgerald – “The Great Ella Fitzgerald Box Set”

The more eager of you readers may be wondering why I’ve been so slow posting my reviews since returning from NZ.  This review was the stumbling block.

Album Cover CD ella fitzgerald the great box setFinding time to listen to a 3-CD set of jazz proved pretty difficult, given we were travelling by car and indulging ourselves with local classic rock radio (it was great to hear Van Halen and Living Color so regularly).  Putting this on the headphones after a day of drinking wasn’t that appealing either.

So, the listening process was delayed until I got back in the office.  And this collection is highly adequate for such purposes.

It allowed me transport myself (Quantum Leap style) back to a simpler time: a time when I might well have worn a hat into the office, and smoked at my desk (a-la Mad Men), and spent my evening in some speakeasy supping bourbon and swing-dancing (apologies for historical inaccuracies).

The tracks on this collection are all early career, be-pop leaning standards from Ms.Fitzgerald.  They showcase her delicious voice, which so often acts like an addition to the horn section, while conveying more human emotions.  The recordings are crude and sound like they may well be blasting out one of Edison’s early prototypes, but it all hangs together wonderfully.

I’ve delighted in listening more closely to the lyrics and pondering the capacity of jazz writers to find more and more entendres for sex and drug taking than Kiss and Alice Cooper ever have. I also have been wondering whether our grandparents naively ignored such imagery, or sniggered along with the rest of them. Did they bluff their parents with tunes about the Muffin Man and bubble gum?

Here’s one of the few clips of Ella I could find (on a nursery rhyme hit that may or may not be about anything vice-related):

File under: Timeless sassiness

304. Fishbone – “Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge”

A definite warning sign of a band on the slide is any adoption of a faux persona, especially one with a comic-based animal basis.

Album Cover CD Fishbone chim_chims_badass_revenge_cover reviewThat’s what Fishbone went for on this 1996 release. The band had been dumped by Sony, and two original members had departed.  They presumably felt they had some point to prove, but they did themselves no service with the primate choice.

The album’s deceit is that the band can be seen as some mutant chimpanzee with various bizarre (and not particularly interesting) powers.  The band seems to be drawing some analogy to their fight with ‘the man’, against ‘racism’ and against dullness.

That would all be fine and dandy and acceptable if the music behind their rants and eccentricities was enjoyable.  Unfortunately, they lean towards the more irritating ska-funk attributes – horn blasts, juvenile lyrics (indeed, scat-obsessed on at least one track), ranty digressions – and fail to deliver much in terms of memorable, uplifting pieces.

The fall from grace here is a big one.  I am tempted to explore the intervening effort and the pre-Reality works as this was a band with so much promise.

File under: Ass sandwich

303. Fishbone – “The Reality of My Surroundings”

I doubt there is an album in my collection which so regularly gets thrown in the CD tray for only two songs .

Album Cover CD Fishbone the Reality of my Surroundings reviewFishbone deliver two classic funk-rock tracks here, covering off on each end of the weather spectrum: Everyday Sunshine and Sunless Saturday

Both are horn-heavy jams, with fantastic rhythms and an energy that is uplifting and contagious.

I should play the whole album more regularly as it is a very cohesive set of power-funk. These guys bridge the world of Parliament and James Brown with punk-ska. As with Parliament, they are not afraid to get out the squealy rock guitar, and the riffs are even more metal-audience-friendly.

They nail anthems, with Fight the Youth and Pray to the Junkie Maker joining the aforementioned duo of gems as the sort of tracks you pray to hear in the live context.

A good mate still rates seeing them on their 1991 or 1992 Aussie tour among his best gigs here. I did eventually catch these guys live, but well after the career peak which was the masterpiece.  They still had sufficient mojo to have me querying why their fellow-LA-sters Red Hot Chilli Peppers made it big while these guys didn’t:

File under: This reality doesn’t bite

I’m a travelling April fool

You may not see any new reviews on here for the next week or so.  I’m off to NZ for some wine-tasting and general lazing.  As I don’t think they have the internet over there yet, I will be scribbling my reviews on parchment and uploading them upon my return. 

A sneak peak at what’s to come: Fishbone, Ella Fitzgerald, Five Eight and the Flaming Lips