Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma (Warp)
Never what most would call dancefloor-friendly, Steven Ellison goes all extended-work on us for 45 minutes, but that doesn't mean the 17 tracks just morph on. A few times they come close, but more often they pause and transition and sometimes they shift gears altogether‑-the whole is segmented, but subtly. Live harp to live bass to looped/sampled beats; bassy dream-pop to jazz scat to chipmunk space-kitsch. Part of its delight is how naturally the disparate parts fit together, but another part is how they add up to phantasmagoria if you let your attention wander (and don't be a tight-ass‑-you should). Thom Yorke contributes a vocal so modest and treated that you'll barely notice it's there. Not so the ping-pong volleys‑-part live and part looped, I think‑-that provides climactic end-game percussion. A MINUS
Eskmo: Eskmo (Ninja Tune)
The first solo album by San Francisco mixmaster Brendan Angelides, who was unknown to me because most mixmasters are, caught my ear before I read its few reviews, several of which compare him unfavorably to NYC gloomster Matthew Dear. Take that as a compliment. Dear's good tracks are well-ordered verse-chorus-verse by comparison, and he feels compelled to sing or intone where Angelides usually lets his textures ooze, thump, and crackle for themselves. This they proceed to do in what strikes this glitch-challenged listener as an exceptionally active and full-bodied manner. Not terribly beaty and almost never fast. Just the kind of weird background music that's guaranteed to engross whenever you lend it both ears. A MINUS
Dean (Xgau), If Sgt. Pepper is A+, then I guess you'd agree that the top 5 albums of 1967 must be: 1. Beach Boys - Wild Honey , 2. Hendrix - Are You Exp? , 3. Beatles - Sgt. Pepper , 4. Who - Sell Out , 5. Moby Grape ? (with apologies to Between the Buttons, John Wesley Harding, and the debuts by the Velvets and the Grateful Dead).?
I think many of us were drawn to Christgau first by the recommendation of good records - or the fact that he was championing records we loved - or perhaps trashing the records we hated? While the writing will hold up over time - I've got to be selfish here - I first read The Dean to find great music for me.
How many of us try not to peek at the grade at the bottom of the review?
Sometimes we can't help it - but in the end when we often agree on the shared grade, Christgau's review means much, much more. The economy and choice of words ("dense" - I believe was a comment in "Rock and Roll Animal") can make for some challenging reading on occasion, but concentration is often rewarded.
The first gift is the recommendation, then the review. That's pretty special - and not as common a connection as you might expect from most criticism.
The last time I listened to Abbey Road, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Paul's singing. "Golden Slumbers" is unbelievable, just those few seconds. Makes up for "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."
How much of our enjoyment of the Beatles comes from their extraordinary variety? The White Album is a hodgepodge, but who else was capable of a mess of that quality?
Joey - yeah, The Who Sell Out is my choice for Best of the '60s, too. Best rock album, at least. A Love Supreme, maybe?
In college (1989), I loaned all of my Beatles CDs to a friend for a practicum project. After graduation, he immediately moved out of town - we lost touch - and I didn't get the CDs back until 1996. So to celebrate their improbable return - I played them all in order over a snowy January weekend - LOUD! I graded them too. It was a nice change of pace after working on a year end list and a year end show for my college radio station. (Favorite '95 album, by the way: "To Bring You My Love").
While I can't find the notebook - I know that A Hard Day's Night, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper were A PLUS (possibly Abbey Road). There were only three A MINUS albums: Please Please Me, Beatles For Sale and Let It Be - and all of the others were "A" by me.
These albums have been burned into my skull as the soundtrack to my teen years - so I doubt I've played any more than one or two straight through since (though I did bite on that mono box - with the Pepper mix quite yummy), but I do get knocked out by most of the random Beatles tracks when they pop up on my Ipod - when I cut the lawn or shovel the snow.
No band ever did so much in so little time - but we all know that.
Oh, I definitely prefer mid-period Arcade Fire.
Not only do I prefer the White Album as a double (jeez, don't everyone lynch me already) I will play it today in honor of our little discussion.
Michael - the White Album rules as a double. It needs the subpar tracks for flavor, like Sandinista and Emancipation. Of course, I wish it was Sign o the Times but it ain't. Grew up with it and love it all.
Robert - Reading your past Beatles' reviews & grades, I knew The Beatles' Second Album was your fave (A+), but Sgt. Pepper is # 2?
I thought you considered Rubber Soul & Revolver & Abbey Road all A+ records. In your great 1977 Cream CG grading 1967 LPs, you gave Sgt. Pepper an "A". If it's now your #2, can we assume Sgt Pepper is now A+ like Rubber Soul, Revolver & Abbey Road?
Would we really be up to 95 comments if the sole topic of discussion was "DJ prog?" I think not. Tidy boxes are for the neurotic. Let's keep it as free flowing as possible!
Didn't mean to insult anyone's intellegence re my last comment. "Sex Pistols" and "great junk" were great ways for Xgau to describe that debut. But individual reactions to music, based on subjectivity, can be interesting, useful, and even enlightening, not just an objective "here's where it fits in the musical pantheon." What bothers me about RS writers -- Fricke, especially -- is that he drops a whole bunch of trivia, but not a lot of explication or analysis. Great criticism does traffic in explication and analysis -- Martin Amis explains the P-Furs just as much as the Sex Pistols.
My point being, there isn't a bad Beatles album, which I realized when I had to listen to "Sgt. Pepper's" endlessly while editing a piece about it. (Mr. Kite says, "Hi, haters!") Even "Magical Mystery Tour" has the totally under-rated and freaking unknown "Flying," which is a 2:17 of synthetic funk that predates the birth of both Krautrock and Beck by three years. AMAZING!
The funny thing about major labels trying to get oil out dry or drying-up wells is that there is nothing like a definitive version of anything anymore. I mean, it's not like there's a mono version of "Moby Dick," you know? (Yeah, I know: various versions of Shakespeare -- not the same thing as the US/UK reshuffling of the Beatles/Stones, or the mono version "Bringing It all Back Home," which makes even "Gates of Eden" sound as good as I thought it was when I was 15.) S'fun to compare the different versions, and even better to have a new way of hearing these totems. But the one you like 9 times out 10 is the one you grew up on.
Gotta go -- "Oh! Darling" just came on. I love that song! Can't be hollow soul because I just filled it up with my soul. (And also: Fulfillment of the "back to the roots" concept of "Let It Be.") Best use of a exclamation point in pop music? Let's debate that question! (Yeah, I know: "Snap!" by the Jam. Pretty good.)
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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