Todd Snider/The Magnetic Fields
What's So Funny?
Todd Snider: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless/Thirty Tigers)
Musically, these are not complex songs, and although Snider's boyish air never seems forced and his good humor always comes with laughs, his 45-year-old voice bears the gravelly traces of many sleepless nights. Yet for the third time since he kicked opiates in 2004, he's scored a full album's worth of new material that remains completely in a character unique to him while adding something new to that character. This time what's new is a band sound shambolically anchored by John Prine's New Orleans-raised drummer Paul Griffith and cunningly colored by fiddler Amanda Shires. What's also new but less surprising is an ever more explicit and uncompromising class animus. One song names the Abacus Fund Goldman Sachs and John Paulson conned unions with. Another begs to differ with the privileged canard that living well is the best revenge. Uh-uh, Snider sez. Revenge is the best revenge. A
The Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge)
These 15 song-puzzles in 34:20 are sophisticated amusements all, although often the amusement is attenuated and one I get bored with before half its 2:38 is over. How amusing they prove over time remains, of course, to be determined. Most amusing: "Your Girlfriend's Face" and "I'll Go Anywhere With Hugh" (tie). Most‑-sorry, it's the right word‑-soulful: "Andrew in Drag." I note for the record that all three are among the first five tracks. A MINUS
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awfulLike I said, not a good grade. It is instructive to compare Wrecking Ball with Todd Snider's musically straightforward, more plainspoken, and less self-important take on basically the same subject matter, however.
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible
Speaking only for myself, I equate a 5.9 with maybe a C+ using our host's criteria.
from pfork's old school rating key
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible
Michael - sue me if I don't laugh.
OK, OK it was funny, I'll laugh.
But I'm not moving Nashville Skyline down the list!
Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal hates the new Boss almost as much as Rolling Stone's David Fricke loves it...and rock criticism (our host and a precious few others excepted) is now as bland and predictable as the rest of the culture...
5.9 doesn't seem like raging hatred to me. I haven't heard the album, so I don't know if the Pitchfork review is accurate (though I'll bet I end up closer to Dombal than Fricke on this), but it comes across as fairly reasonable, not like he was looking for a reason to trash Springsteen. At least on his last couple of albums, the charge that the Boss has been using overproduction to cover up shaky songwriting is certainly not uncalled-for.
Loved seeing all the 1969 ballots - sorry I didn't have a chance to vote on this one. If I did, I know that the eponymous Boz Scaggs album would have ranked very high. When I think of Muscle Shoals or need a hit of Duane - that's where I go.
Merritt's 100 list didn't cite exact versions in several cases so yeah, pick your favorite.
Gracie Fields' "Sally" remains my favorite discovery from the list. Fields was a huge star in Britain, starring in several chin uppy musicals in the 1930s such as Sally in Our Alley (Maurice Elvey, 1931) where "Sally" climaxes the film (actually, you hear it a million times in 70 mins. if I remember correctly). She was a gawky, backslapping type who would fun a song when it got too serious, rendering it deeper as a result. Simon Frith has written about this tactic in Music for Pleasure and Performing Rites. Basically, working class audiences adored her because she epitomized their knack for keeping up appearances, smiling through the pain, etc.
You can check out the end of Sally in Our Alley here: goo.gl/xGdMi
Totally forgot about J Bliebz x Shamantis: "U Smile 800% Slower" which fits in the Slowing Down Pop Songs To Bring Out Their True Significance vein but succeeds beautifully in helping fill that hole left by My Bloody Valentine (see also All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors: Turning Into Small, Ifwhen: We Will Gently Destroy You, track 3 from Pita: Get Out, The Angelic Process: Weighing Souls With Sand, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 2: The Doldrums, Belong: Colorloss Record, Glasvegas: Glasvegas, Infinite Body: "A Fool Persists," etc. and also, I suppose, the Kevin Shields remix bootleg While I Was Away).
Y'all forgot Kim Fowley: Outrageous. It belongs in a time capsule, remember.
Diva house provides plenty of screams. Check out Satoshi Tomiie's "Sneaky One" here: goo.gl/oTX1l. The screeching starts at 1:51 and will lift you up to the club lights along with the cigarette smoke. Also the Nevins Club Mix of Angelica's "Quando M'en Vo" but I can't find a link.
Liam, thanks for the Pu$$y Riot links. Fascinating stuff!
"bubbly, fun and catchy" sums up my first impression, too.
1. The Kinks- ...Are the Village Green Preservation Society- 15
2. Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis- 14
3. The Band- S/T- 14
4. Fairport Convention- Unhalfbricking- 13
5. The Meters- The Meters- 12
6. Miles Davis- In a Silent Way- 8
7. Janis Joplin- I Got Dem' ol Kozmic Blues Again- 7
8. CCR- Willy and the Poor Boys-6
9. Captain Beefheart- Trout Mask Replica- 6
10. The Grateful Dead- Live/Dead- 5
Missed it by that much!
Stones- Let ith Bleed
Sly Stone - Shtand!
The Kinks- Arthhur
Doug Sahm- Mendochino
The VU- S/T
The Flying Burritos Brothers- Gilded Palace of Shin
Dylan- Nashville Shkyline
LZ- LZ II
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.