The Varied Glories of British Disco
Burial: Street Halo/Kindred (Hyperdub/Beat)
Two EPs from the mysterious William Bevan, six tracks divided evenly between his 20-minute 2011 return and his 30-minute 2012 stride forward, cohere almost seamlessly as the album they become when you don't have to turn any plastic over. The accomplished recapitulations of Street Halo‑-faerie electro-soprano and vinyl sputter-crackle laying their dream and disquiet on the nervous beats‑-pause briefly at what is now track four, which takes seven seconds to achieve liminal audibility before slowly building into a peppier elegy than anything he's previously dared. And despite the lamentable title "Ashtray Wasp" (please, I don't want to know), the 12-minute finale begins as a distressed house anthem‑-not literally uplifting, this is Burial, but inspiring nonetheless‑-and then trails off into something more lyrical. Thoughtful, even. A MINUS
Saint Etienne: Words and Music by Saint Etienne (Heavenly/Universal)
It's not like they ever disappeared‑-in Britain they've been minor fixtures, regularly releasing albums that all sounded markedly inferior to 1993's So Tough from here. There's even a best-of no Stateside bizzer ever touched. But they clearly regard their first proper album since 2006's Tales From Turnpike House as some kind of recapitulation or theme statement‑-a looking back that's warmly affectionate but too cool to melt into nostalgia. Announcing her intentions with a striking half-spoken reminiscence of a fandom that began at 10, Sarah Cracknell devotes most of these songs to the young clubbers and music lovers she was and knew. But at times you suspect her subjects and personas are older, still caught up in the same dreams. And the subject of "Twenty Five Years" is the time in front of her. Her male partners Bob Stanley and Peter Wiggs provide reliable disco-inflected pop or vice versa that the remixers on the optional bonus disc trick up with more wit and fidelity than we who avoid remixes sagely expect. A MINUS
Last SE mention before the thread ends and I shut up...Scott C., I've been focusing on Turnpike House the last couple of days and it's gone up a notch or two for me. Love the little duet about the couple debating a move to the country, with Sarah and a creaky-voiced David Essex.
I've mentioned it before but Iris' so-real-life "No Time To Cry" is the one that gets me every time. Especially the second half of the extended third chorus that goes --
"And I'll take a beer from the 'fridgerator,
And go sit out in the yard and with a cold one in my hand,
I'm gonna bite down and swallow hard."
And it's probably too obvious but the Elton song that does it is "Empty Garden". Not the "insect" line, since that's sad itself if you're related to Mark Chapman. The chorus is what gets me --
"And I've been knocking but no one answers
And I've been knocking most all the day
Oh and I've been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can't you come out to play"
Plus his vocal performance.
And, Hey Raul. How you been? Too long . . .
Thanks for heads up, Walter. I don't get to many gigs at the moment, missed a few great ones lately, but will put that in the diary and live in hope.
Walter, my apologies if the following completely misses the point of your post:
No, I most probably wouldn't lose it at the (now past) last Bee Gees show, but I can't say the same for a big Bee Gees fan, and it's impossible for me to say that Al means more to me than the Bee Gees mean to that fan, because I don't think it's true. Also, though Al definitely means infinitely more to me (and I've spent much more time listening to him) than the Bee Gees (or, say ELO or Cheap Trick or the Cars), at those times when I want to hear the Bee Gees or ELO or Cheap Trick or the Cars then Al isn't going to cut it.
Greg, one of my favorite Xgau lines is from his L. Armstrong box review: "Ask yourself whether high and low mean any damn thing at all." Because it takes aim at an argument that has wasted far too much of far too many people's time, and also because it provides a very useful template: "Ask yourself whether cool and uncool mean any damn thing at all." :)
I might lose it at an Al show, too.
In a bit of consumer news I ordered the one-disc Saint Etienne along with Django Django's disc from Amazon UK for $28USD. Bob's comments re DD plus the three songs I heard via You Tube were enough to sway me.
Greg T: That Vaccines album (my #1 of last year) is their only one but their follow-up is out in September. Many fall releases look promising from LCC to Dylan to Iris DeMent. Can't wait.
Excellent stuff from our host re: Roskilde. He hit that great combination
of an overview- with on the money specifics-the holy grail of criticism/journalism of that type.
I look forward to seeing footage of Roskilde on my very nice television screen sooner rather than later-via the Palladia Channel which shows concert film-and has always shown plenty of stuff from the various European music festivals including Roskilde.
BTW-still listening to The Vaccines and their recent or is it their only release. I'm a sucker for that kind
of power pop and hopefully will always be. Glad Xgau enjoyed them in Roskilde.
Walter: Zevon could probaby wring some tears out of me, especially, "Play it All Night Long," but I was thinking of current bands in particular. It must be generational too or I cry at the wrong moments. I never take anyone's advice on music if they base it soley on emotional response. If that were the case my two favorite songs would be Elton's "The Last Song" and Janis Ian's "Some People's Lives" because I tear-up when I hear them. But, they aren't my favorites, because they're smarmy and treacly std penis probe kind of songs.
From the BSN Fiona Apple essay:
"Post-MTV, you'd figure all these women must work harder at their looks than Laura Nyro."
Hah! I don't think Nyro worked on her looks at all. It seems like the only color she knew was black - which was almost admirable for a girl singing jerky pop music in the 60's -- and had the same haircut for almost two decades.
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.