I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass

VU – 1967

Dusty Springfield – 1968

Who – 1969

Kraftwerk – 1977

Pere Ubu – 1978

Bowie – 1977

Lowe – 1978

Billy Joel – 1980

Minor Threat – 1981

SPK – 1982

Einstürzende Neubauten – 1983

Annie Lennox – 1992

John Zorn – 1993

Sia – 2016


Cigarettes After Sex: Ambient Pop or Slowcore?

According to the band’s press packet, Cigarettes After Sex is “an ambient pop group based out of Brooklyn, NY.” Isn’t “ambient pop” an oxymoron? Ambient music is supposed to fade into the background, create a mood without calling attention to itself, while pop music aspires to be unignorable, to get stuck in your head.

I think the genre listed on the band’s Facebook page is more appropriate, “slow motion”:

Plus it echoes the label of the 1990s microgenre the band’s sound also evokes, slowcore.

Slowcore crept in this petty pace of Galaxie 500:

No surprise given the band’s name, Codeine played at a drugged, narcotized pace:

Most of Bedhead‘s songs moved at the same glacial pace as other slowcore bands and the vocals always dragged, . . .

. . . but a few of them featured dynamic shifts not unlike Pavement’s as the slow and soft strumming grew faster and louder:

The Velvet Underground, particularly its third album, obviously resonates throughout slowcore. Both Galaxie 500 (“Ceremony”) and Bedhead (“Disorder”) covered Joy Division. Codeine dug deeper for its covers, MX-80 Sound and Unrest.

Perversely, Cigarettes After Sex covered REO Speedwagon, . . .

. . . but slowed the AOR anthem to a crawl.

Thanks, Thom, for calling this band to my attention.

Denis Johnson (1949-2017)

Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, a collection of interconnected stories about rural U.S. addicts and petty criminals, took its title from the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”:

Johnson established his wide range of styles from the beginning, moving directly from the noir of his debut, Angels, to the speculative fiction of Fiskadoro, which was set in the post-apocalyptic culture that grew within the quarantine zone after Miami was nuked. Jesus’ Son was probably his masterpiece, but his novels are all well worth reading.

New New Jersey Music: Feelies and Real Estate

For a blog created to promote new music (see motto/mission statement above), I have certainly been focusing on a lot of old music lately. So this week I will be highlighting some more recent music I’ve been listening to.

Only on the last track of their new album, In Between, do The Feelies approach the intensity of their early days when they regularly explored “What Went On” with probably their biggest influence, The Velvet Underground:

The strum may not be quite so drang these days, a bit slower, a bit starker, yet they strum on, guitars against the current:

Overall, it’s a nice, casual visit with old friends.

Like The VU before them, The Feelies have been more influential than well known. One band The Feelies have influenced is fellow New Jerseyites, Real Estate (the two bands have even played together on occasion).

Real Estate have also released new music:

The full album, In Mind, drops March 17.

Box Set Season, part 1

With Christmas coming very soon, it is officially box set season.

First there is Bob Dylan and the Band’s The Basement Tapes Complete:

After his motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan withdrew from the spotlight to Woodstock, NY (several years before the rock festival, which wasn’t actually in Woodstock anyway). He spent many evenings playing music at “Big Pink,” the nearby house rented by his recent backup band the Hawks, soon to be renamed The Band. As this six-CD box documents, they played a number of traditional songs, rearrangements of some of Dylan’s older songs, and a whole lot of new songs Dylan had written. Although a number of the songs were recorded by others — including Manfred Mann (“Mighty Quinn”), Fairport Convention (“Million Dollar Bash”) and, of course, the Byrds and the Band themself; Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint’s Lo and Behold album was almost entirely comprised of songs from these sessions — only a few ever appeared on Dylan albums.

The Basement Tapes Complete is the latest volume of Dylan’s ongoing “Bootleg Series,” which is only appropriate since it was interest in these tapes that led to the release of what is considered to be one of, if not the very first popular rock bootleg, Great White Wonder in 1969:

Now, 45 years later, the complete collection is officially available for the first time. That said, only a Dylan fanatic, of which there are many of us, would want the complete set. The best songs have long been available on The Basement Tapes, the official double album released in 1975 (although there were some complaints at the time about minor overdubbing and the inclusion of some songs the Band recorded in that basement without Dylan).  For fanatics, though, the set offers the bridge between Dylan’s “electric period” culminating on Blonde on Blonde and his return to roots on John Wesley Harding.

The “Super Deluxe” edition of Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Edition also contains six discs:

The Velvet Underground‘s third is considered their “quiet album,” especially following the very loud White Light White Heat, which ended with the very noisey “Sister Ray.” This was also the first VU album recorded after Lou Reed forced John Cale out. This was now Lou Reed’s band. To make that point totally clear, after Val Valentin initially mixed the album, Lou Reed remixed it to highlight his own vocals. Leaving the band sounding muffled, this version became known as “The Closet Mix.” The two mixes can be compared on the first two discs of the set. The third disc offers still another, formerly promo-only mono mix.

The fourth disc compiles the recordings that have come to be known as The Lost Album. They are far more upbeat than most of the band’s earlier recordings, revealing Reed’s love of classic rock and roll and leading the way to the band’s last album, the relatively straight rock album, Loaded, that holds the later classic “Sweet Jane.” However, the tracks have long been available on the compilations VU and Another View (they have been remastered here).

So the final two discs are the real attraction.  They contain a very good live show (compiled from two 1969 shows at the Matrix in San Francisco). A few of these tracks have been previously released, but the source for this release sounds better. And it includes a preview of the song “Rock and Roll,” another later classic that would appear on Loaded.

Part 2 coming soon, featuring Captain Beefheart and the Go-Betweens

ps — when buying box sets (or imports), I highly recommend importsCDs; they are consistently $20-$30 cheaper than most other sources.

“Traditional Cool”

The new Miller High Life ad is stacked with signs of vintage coolness:

The mise-en-scène evokes now yellowed and curling black and white photos of ’50s beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady . . .

. . . or maybe shots from Robert Frank‘s collection, The Americans. The narrator is clearly imitating Johnny Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson monotone.

And then there is the music. Doesn’t it sound a whole lot like a slowed down instrumental version of the Velvet Underground‘s “I Can’t Stand It”?*

But all of these references to what was cool during the teen years of the parents, even grandparents of the current ad’s target demographic raises an important question:

Is “traditional cool” an oxymoron?

* Speaking of the VU, the so-called “Norman Dolph acetate” will soon be up for auction again. This one of a kind demo pressing was thought lost not long after being recorded in 1966, but showed up in a NYC flea market in 2002 for a whopping 75 cents. In 2006, it sold for $25,200.

“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”

I’ve been a fan of Justified since the beginning. I vaguely recall hearing Darrell Scott‘s song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” on the show — Brad Paisley‘s version ended seasons one and two — but the country song did not leave much of an impression. That changed last night when Ruby Friedman Orchestra‘s cover version closed out the season four finale. This caught my attention right off:

Turns out that’s just one of many covers Friedman has recorded.  There are plenty more on her Soundcloud page, some available as free downloads, including this one of the Velvet Underground‘s “Pale Blue Eyes”: