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
Blame it on a relatively weak year for music (thus far), but I find myself growing distant and apathetic to a lot of music over the last several months.
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 have similar "issues" with jazz. Well I suppose it depends on the jazz, but generally it makes me feel a bit lost. I blame rockism*. Also maybe others around my age are like me in that I associate the words "jazz" and "smooth" very closely due to 90s radio stations and parents.)
*I wouldn't be able to whip that term around if it weren't for the likes of you, witnesses.
I never liked The White Album much, either, bar, like, 3 tracks, which aren't even their best! (USSR, etc.) There is so much digging to be done, to find a catchy track--so strange, considering they're The Beatles!
Lou Reed Lou Reed Lou Reed!! Anyone?? The Blue Mask (especially)? Legendary Hearts, New Sensations and Ecstacy (respectively)? <vs> The Velvet Underground
None of those are as good as The Velvet Underground, even Legendary Hearts. Then there is ratio. Four out of six studio albums are A/A+ albums, and the 1969 live album is an A by me. Do we need to make a list of the shitty/marginal/throwaway albums by Lou?
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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