Loudon Wainwright III/Lee Ranaldo
What Do You Mean You're an Old Man? I'm the Old Man Around Here.
Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound)
A reluctant 50, he started playing the Old card with the adulthood album Grown Man; now, a saggy stripling of 65, he trumps himself with a mortality album. Wainwright has been writing death songs for years, of course, but on his eighth album and label of the young century the theme turns concept. In one song he's a ghost; another features a reflection his late father wrote about his own late father; the one that begins "Somebody else I knew just died" is followed by the one called "The Days That We Die." Family members abound, including the late Kate McGarrigle in a remake of her sole co-write with her husband, from before either was 30, which happens to be called "Over the Hill." There are cameos from Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Chris Smither, John Scofield, the winsome Dame Edna Everage; Tom Lehrer declined but loved how Wainwright fit the word "Mercurochrome" into "My Meds." With Elliott, Loud-O bids for a do-over: "You don't know what you're doin' and you can't just wait;/You go ahead and do it and then it's too late/You need a double lifetime." After he goes down on his knees and prays, as he promises he will, this album will be Exhibit A on his application. A
Lee Ranaldo: Between the Times and the Tides (Matador)
Never much of a singer even by Sonic Youth standards and always abrasive solo, Ranaldo applies his best-in-band chops to riffage and filigree so lovely his well-meaning and far from altogether tuneless plainsong has the welcome effect of situating the guitar in the same reality occupied by his lyrics, which always make sense and often seem a mere detail away from total lucidity. Throughout he recaptures the repose of A Thousand Leaves's "Hoarfrost," his will to reconciliation and renewal always palpable whether the songs reach out or recalibrate his options. Just the album you'd hope from a thoughtful 56-year-old after his band of 30 years breaks up. Best in show is "Angles," a love song to someone he knows well and can always stand to know better. Not a bandmate, either. A MINUS
Uh, what songs on Exile are less than stellar, exactly?Less than stellar? It has two stellar songs. You pick 'em.
"Rocks Off" get tedious after two minutes. "Shake Your Hips" is a bore, as is the plodding "Casino Boogie," but then I don't like that kind of song. "Turd on the Run" is weak, a throwaway. "Ventilator Blues" is a mediocre bar band song. "Let it Loose" is dull and endless. One could go on.
I think Exile is one of those albums people convince themselves they like more than they actually like, because they're supposed to like it. But maybe that's just because I don't like it all that much. Really, how often do you play the thing, the only real test? Perhaps you play it often. I sure don't. I bet if it didn't have "Tumbling Dice" on it -- one of the best rock songs ever -- it wouldn't get half the attention it gets.
Now Layla, there's a perfect double.
PS - followup edit. Re-reading I think this came off a bit snotty. Didn't mean it that way. Been a long day! You likes what you likes.
I thought it was universally agreed that that was a famous case of a double LP with nary a bum note.
The Dave Marsh edited Rolling Stone Album Guide is an infamous exception. Although I too skip the third side in general.
I'd give them both "E+".
Two Virgins and Life with the Lions
These are both the "yes, you can sometimes hear Lennon, but you can't always make out what he's saying, and even if you can make it out, he's not saying anything relevant" kind of album. One listen may satisfy your sense of curious research, but more than once and you're pushing it.
Don't recall seeing an Xgau grade for these, but I'd give them both "E+".
And I smoke that kush
Yeah, that kush
Everyone send good vibes to Sinead O'Connor, who recently canceled her tour due to problems with her bipolar disorder.
Seems to be getting worse, too. When she's openhearted there's nobody more so. Underlines the downside of touring to "save" the bottom line for pop musicians. For many of the best, it's the worst aspect of the career.
I think even the light weight and goofy bits are part of the amazing journey that is The White Album. So the song quality is uneven. Big deal. (So is the song quality of Exile on Main Street -- way more so if you ask me).And I smoke that kush
Yeah, that kush
Yeah, and I ball like swoosh
Yeah, like swoosh
Iggy Pop's upcoming album Apres
I watched the producer of that album graduate from high school (brother of an old girlfriend).
Ranaldo applies his best-in-band chops to riffage and filigree so lovely his well-meaning and far from altogether tuneless plainsong has the welcome effect of situating the guitar in the same reality occupied by his lyrics
Just thought I'd say that being able to describe this musical effect with such precision is a significant creative accomplishment of its own.
Looking forward to the Loudon and Ronaldo very much.
BBC 6 Music documentary on London Calling up for another couple of days, including interviews with Jones and Simonon: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00r8ngl
I think even the light weight and goofy bits are part of the amazing journey that is The White Album. So the song quality is uneven. Big deal. (So is the song quality of Exile on Main Street -- way more so if you ask me). That's part of the album's eclectic charm. Imagine your ideal one-LP version is all that ever existed, and then ask yourself: do you really think you're better off now without "O-blah-di" or "Rocky Raccoon"? Texture, folks, texture.
Anyway, the best Beatles album is Let it Be. No other Beatles album has held up as well over time.
PS - Trivia question: Can anyone think of another song that references a song by the same band on the same album as the song in question, the way "Savoy Truffle" references "Ob-la-di-bla-da"?
PPS - Commonly known White Album trivia. "Sexy Sadie" was originally titled "Maharishi," and is way more interesting when you listen to it with that in mind.
*I can't even come up with anybody that would be any kind of Anglo parallel to Dassin, but suffice it to say he must be the only performer in history to have covered a post-Jim Morrison Doors song, and that he did so in a context of ultra-smooth maximum commercialism, not meaning to be weird or arty in the least. Also his biggest hit (the ultra-ghostly "L'ete indien") originated with an Italian prog band.
Just heard that Richard Branson is making a movie about the making of Exile on Main Street. I rarely go to the movies but, I must say, I'm excited for it.
My wife, who's been quite wary of him for years likes the album a lot and says (chuckling) "Sometimes when bastards like that get cracked open, it can be instant enlightenment."
Thanks,Allen, your wife and I are of like minds about him, and it's also encouraging news as I'm willing to meet him halfway this time. I'll report tomorrow as I've got Loudo on tap for my nightly digestion as well as that fantastic Screaming Females album.
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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