Monthly Archives: May 2010

F=Finished

And thus we close out the letter F, and check out the final Top 10 from said sixth letter in our aural adventure:

  1. The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
  2. Fishbone – “The Reality of My Surroundings”
  3. Roosevelt Franklin – “The Year of Roosevelt Franklin/My Name is Roosevelt Franklin”
  4. Florence and the Machine – “Lungs”
  5. Aretha Franklin – “The Very Best of Aretha Franklin”
  6. Fred Astereo – “I Love You”
  7. The Fauves – “Future Spa”
  8. Liz Flynn – “Stitches”
  9. Ibrahim Ferrer – “Buena Vista Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer”
  10. The Fauves – “Lazy Highways”

That may the biggest mish-mash of artists, genres and vintages yet. Let’s see what the month of June and the letter G have to offer…

324. Funkadelic – “Ultimate Funkadelic”

The complex world of George Clinton’s P-Funk collective can be tricky to delineate. I own more from the Parliament side of the coin than from Funkadelic, but have always struggled to distinguish the real difference between the two entities.

This here is one of many greatest hits collections from these funk icons. It contains some of the greatest recorded sounds you will ever here.  These guys took what James Brown was doing (and many of his band members) and added an absurdity and lack of restraint he was never quite willing to embrace.

The basslines are contagious, the vocals primal (and regularly silly).  How can you resist grooves (and stage garb) like this?:

Freak of the Week, One Nation…, and the astounding Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock? make this album (or any album with said tracks a ‘must own’).

The rest of the album doesn’t ever hit those heights (although it is fun to play ‘spot the sample’). The adventures into psychedelia have never quite grabbed me. I thus play my Parliament collections much more regularly.

I do wish I’d been there for their 1970s live extravaganzas however.

File under: Get some funk in your trunk

323. Fred Astereo – “Don’t Break My Heart”

Back in the early-ish 1990s I was a potentially pathological pursuer of the Tlot Tlot phenomenon.

This Melbourne duo pumped out nonsense rhymes and pop silliness on guitar and keys backed by a drum machine.  Thus they were lazily likened to NYC’s They Might Be Giants.

I regale you with this tale as it explains the appeal of this album from former Tlotian Stanely Paulzen and a newer buddy.

A classic from the Tlotite live show finally gets a recorded run here. Please Don’t Ask For An Apology is the sort of tune that’d race out the door as a very early draft pick if such things occurred in the songwriting world.

The TMBG comparison is truly justifiable with respect to With the Exception of Saturn, an astronomical love analogy that the two Johns would happily call their own.

This album doesn’t have the pure pap charm of its predecessor in the Astereo oeuvre, but it is still a perfect lazy Saturday afternoon spin (and thus well suited to my day today). 

And you’ve got to love the zero-budget video Stan produced on the security camera at his work: 

File under: Would you like to break dance?

322. Fred Astereo – “I Love You”

No, I haven’t dived back to the letter A. Fred Astereo is the band’s name.

This is one of the many incarnations of Melbourne’s very creative Stanley Paulzen (also of Tlot Tlot and later Ruck Rover fame). Anyone who has ever encountered him belting out a tune will have a strong recollection of a few characteristics:

– He has a sense of humour that is corny yet from left field

– He seems deliberately uncommercial yet is poppy as all hell

– He has a timeless quality bordering on vaudevillean

This incarnation is where he puts all of that on display. The sound is very much cocktail hour. So crooning one minute, cheesy country the next, and some tunes that sound like they may have prompted flappers dancing in the 1920s. I’m not sure I’ve explained that very well at all. Have a look at this clip (by the way Stan’s the guy in the chair at the very start):

This album is chock full of hummable gems, all nerdy tales of love in various guises. That’s Maths brings asthma into romance. Robot Girl takes love beyond human-to-human, as does the bizarre Egg. How Many Brides? makes country seem way too easy.

Buy this album.

File under: Love songs for the weird at heart 

321. The Folk Implosion – “One Part Lullaby”

Lou Barlow and his buddy John obviously bore easily.

The three years between Folk Implosion albums saw their sound morph considerably.  Into the studio are hauled some samplers, a vocoder and the muffling cotton is removed from the engineer’s ears.

So now we have a more upbeat, somewhat electronic tone.  We’re talking less funky than Beck, less idiosyncratic than the Eels.

Unfortunately, what is lost in the mix is the wow factor of Barlow’s voice and the strong sense of intimacy, in the sense of being part of something small and organic (organic in the “close to the source” sense, not the mutant, overpriced vegetables sense).

This is still better than their debut, and interesting in parts, but it never gets me in the same fashion as Dare to Be Surprised, as it feels the lads are going through the motions too often and trying to latch on to some zeitgeist that aint really their thang.  Quirky seems to be the aim here, but it is rather forced and awkward:

File under: Sleep easy but unsated.

320. The Folk Implosion – “Dare to Be Surprised”

There’s some bloke in the bible called Lazarus whose name gets invoked whenever someone upsets expectation and returns alive and kicking.

I’m note sure that exact imagery or parallel should be drawn here, as, while  the first incarnation of The Folk Implosion certainly seemed dead in the water, there was always that awareness that Lou Barlow had a strong songwriting pedigree.

Here, along with his collaborator John Davis, he delivers a much more pleasing, captivating, soothing set of ditties.

It is all still pretty lo-fi, but with some thought given to the listener. I guess we’re still listening through the wall, but they’ve given us a comfy couch to recline on.

It turns out these guys had some minor mainstream hit in between the two albums (some song from the Kids soundtrack).  Maybe that got them thinking about hooks and the like.

The vibe is chilled drums, atmospheric guitar, warm vocals, slowly building and swirling.  It’s a little like the quieter stuff the Shins were lauded for almost a decade later.

Barlow has a voice that gets to me, and on tracks like Barricade, Burning Paper and Checking In it is perfectly matched with the sounds around it.

File under:Who dares wins

319. The Folk Implosion – “Take a Look Inside…”

I clearly need to listen to that Roosevelt Franklin album more closely as my alphabet seems a bit rusty.  I skipped over a chunk of the FOs in my collection as I rushed to blues-soul-funk trifecta of my past three reviews.

I thus missed a very white boy – Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh etc fame – and another of his dalliances. I threw this in the CD player well aware that it was lo-fi chicanery from the otherwise rocky Barlow.

What I’d forgotten about was how blatantly underwhelming this album is.  It really sounds like a couple of blokes in the middle of writing some new tunes, but a couple of rooms away.  There are little snatches of possibility amongst the dross. Barlow’s voice is still somewhat alluring, and one or two tracks (e.g. Had to find out) the guitar work hints at a hook.

But there is really not enough here to warrant listening again.  And with the fourteen tunes only adding up to 22 or so minutes of listening pleasure you’ll feel very shortchanged.

File under: Look away now

318. Roosevelt Franklin – “The Year of Roosevelt Franklin/My Name is Roosevelt Franklin”

This is a rare instance where I actually possess two copies of the same album (both on vinyl), each with a different cover, released in different years with different titles, but the same tracks.

I was introduced to a song off this relatively hard to come by Sesame St production by two different mates of mine who once had aspirations of starting a Jim Henson cover band. I ended up chasing it around 2nd hand stores and online auctions for several years (the cover on the right is the better package as it’s gate fold).

Little Roosevelt may well be some mutant muppet lovechild of the afore-reviewed Aretha. He certainly was for a short time the hippest, blackest, most righteous non-human in the neighbourhood, hanging out with the mega-cool original Gordon (who in real life fathered Hoffs from 21 Jump Street who was a powerful black woman of another generation). He sang black power songs that probably inspired the rise of Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Emmanuel Lewis.

This is a fantastic album, almost enough to prompt procreation, just so your precocious offshoot can sing the alphabet like this:

The album itself features considerably funkier versions than in that clip (hard to imagine I know). The collection is diverse from jazz to blues, funk to soul, and even some mariachi action. Several of the tracks are just simple learn the alphabet, months and days of the week devices:

Others are about empowerment (Skin I’m in), sharing (Halfies) and cooperating (Me and You), crossing the road (the brilliant Safety Boy Blues) and the best version of King Midas’ story ever.

In a perfect world this would be handed to each new parent as they leave the hospital. Within a generation we’d all look like the cast of Good Times and be more peace-loving and right-on than Michael Franti.

File under: You’re sure to love this as sure as a moose loves moose juice.

317. Aretha Franklin – “The Very Best of Aretha Franklin”

I’ve been reliving some great moments in music today bopping along to the soulful, powerful pop funk of Ms. Aretha Franklin.

Here’s a lady that pops up again and again with classic tracks that have become unmistakably hers and hers alone.  I guess that makes her the female parallel to James Brown.

This collection has the classics that you’ve heard a million times before (many of the overburdened with parentheses): Respect, I never loved a man (the way that I love you), Chain of fools, (You make me feel like) A natural woman, I say a little prayer, and Do right woman, do right man.

It doesn’t seem that long ago I was reviewing a bunch of pasty Irish actors trying to capture the power of several of these tunes. Hearing them in the original glory highlights what
makes Aretha so special. Her voice is close to flawless, and her vocal pacing is impeccable.

There are a couple of later, more MOR Luther Vandrossy numbers towards the end of this set that do very little for me, but the front half has made me Think that Aretha was very justified in her status as the first female solo artist in the Hall of Fame… the Blues Brothers were right to be a little scared of here too:

File under: Soul royalty

316. T-Model Ford – “She Ain’t None of Your’n”

It is about time we had some more blues action on this blog.

Blues is exactly the sort of music that I feel a strong pull towards on a sporadic basis.  This compulsion isn’t necessarily reflective of my seeking to wallow in self-pity, but rather the need for some vitality and warmth.

And the blues I’m usually after sounds a hell of lot like this CD.

Mr. Ford (and I feel he warrants such respect given he started recording in his 70s and still rocks along as he approaches 90) delivers very grungy, rural blues. It is tempting to call it old school, yet it doesn’t sound like it was recorded direct to ‘cylinder’ (i.e. it aint Blind Willie McTell or Robert Johnson). It’s just pared back and lo-fi.

It is funny, and slightly raunchy, with T’s entendres including “wood cutting”, and something about chicken heads:

The classic riff-vocal-riff of Leave My Heart Alone is blues personified, while the deceptively simple rhythms of the opener She Asked Me So I Told Her showcases the clever vocal pacing skills of this veteran.

This is perhaps the strongest of the old-bloke CDs I have from the much-to-love Fat Possum Record label.

File under: Blues is the new black