Martha Redbone Roots Project/The Handsome Family
Listen to the words
Produced by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's John McEuen, and for once that's a good thing. Where on Allen Ginsberg's weird old Blake album a tuneless hippie chorale rendered Blake's lyrics over finger cymbal, flute, and harmonium that cried out for a round of oms, Afro-Cherokee Redbone claims Blake for British balladry, where he belongs. Traditional lyrics are worth marveling and puzzling over. But I know of few as powerful and strange as "The Garden of Love," "I Rose Up at Dawn of Day," or "The Fly," to name three that went unannotated when I marked up my complete Blake at 19. Blake is always less obscure in Songs of Innocence and Experience mode, and between Redbone's lucid, subtle force and the modernized Appalachian settings she fits to the poet's stanzas, she's created a new body of folk song by a lyricist who compares favorably to, well, Bob Dylan. Not every track takes it home. Nothing is that automatic. But a major find nonetheless. A MINUS
The Handsome Family: Wilderness (Carrot Top)
Since each of the 12 songs is named after an animal‑-including just one mammal, and a wildebeest at that‑-you expect a zoological concept album. In fact, however, the title creatures all have walk-ons, fly-ons, swim-ons, or crawl-ons, even the conquering flies who think General Custer looks so "beautiful" dead. Yet the only true ringer is a magic lizard whose bite requires a witchcraft cure‑-in all the rest, the animals are intimates of a natural world humans navigate clumsily and uncomprehendingly except in "Frogs," where the housebound are bidden to tromp down through the mud and hear their amphibian song. As always, the tales are Rennie Sparks's, the teller her dour husband Brett, and the tales themselves are why you first listen. But these are so fine you don't mind listening again. And as you do, you start noticing how deftly Brett negotiates lines and stanzas that aren't as blockish as their meter and his voice make you think. And then you listen to this uningratiating music some more. A MINUS
Belated thanks to Milo for alerting me to the Books, whom I hadn't heard of before. They don't sound very like Public Service Broadcasting despite the occasional similar working methods, but I like what I hear. I'm interested to hear what you think of PSB when you get a chance to listen.
Sorry to hear about Maxwell's. Great place, saw the dB's and the Slits there among others.
In other news, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is now the basis of "Will Love Tear Us Apart?", a " free-to-play browser-game about relationships on the brink of breaking up. It is inspired by Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and follows the song in delivering a dark and frustrating perspective on love. Each verse in the song is represented by a level in the game."
If that sounds like your thing: http://willlovetearusapart.com/
This Just In! New Liver Complains of Difficulty Working With Lou Reed. see the onion
Edit: "political correctness" is useful shorthand I try to avoid--here "political politesse" might be more apt.
My personal favorite Lou Reed "quote" has always been the one from the Lester Bangs record review of "Metal Machine Music." Seems like only yesterday....take it away, Lester -
The reason why he keeps on recording old Velvet Underground outtakes he wrote upwards of a decade ago is that he's saving all his best new stuff for 863 LPs to be released, one every two months, after he dies, assuming that he ever does. "I'm not gonna let those bloodsuckers rip me off and tarnish my memory like happened to poor Jimi," he confided to me once over two Schaefer's drafts at McSorley's. "My fans will never get less than A+ quality, as my friend Bob Christgau would put it, and besides it's quite likely that I will live forever, because me and some doctor friends I hang out with just discovered that there's a secret, heretofore unknown ingredient in methamphetamine which retards the aging process.
"Hot Chicks". Haha, that's a bold title. If true, supposedly there's some witty allusion to back that up, other than just 'women artists' therefore 'female' therefore 'chicks' therefore 'hot chicks'. He did call Essays on Art and Democracy "Air Guitar", which without knowledge of its contents could leave one guessing. Duo-syllabic and a tad uncouth.
I also shared the 'power of critics' quote as an example of something perhaps in line with some of Xgau or Milo's comparably disdainful views of the current terrain of print/online journalism- sucky editorial, not enough $, pandering to market, lack of recognition, twitter et al.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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