Rave On Buddy Holly/Grin
Rave On Teen Spirit
Rave On Buddy Holly (Fantasy)
High-profile film-music supervisor Randall Poster assembled quite the high-profile cast to revive these 19 ancient titles. The Black Keys! Cee-Lo Green! Florence + the Machine! My Morning Jacket! She & Him! A whole bunch of rather dull yet commercially viable succès d'estimes! But lo, handed the gift of Buddy's simple tunes and simpler lyrics, they joyfully escape the craft-by-numbers of their own compositions, leaving it to father figures Paul McCartney and Lou Reed to disrespect Holly's classics and to materfamilias Patti Smith to solemnize Holly's fluff‑-which they can, because they're Holly's coequals. The way his heedless old songs liberate cautious young professionals lays to rest any doubts as to whether he belongs in the same pantheon as George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin. He just bequeathed us a smaller book. A MINUS
Grin: The Very Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren (Spindizzy/Epic Associated/Legacy '99)
Lofgren is an even better argument than Buddy Holly himself for the historically dubious proposition that rock and roll is the proper province of inspired striplings, because he didn't die. Instead he turned pro, grinding out dozens of overstated, unfulfilled albums before and after Bruce Springsteen provided a use for an enthusiasm that got pretty grotesque as his spontaneity vanished with his chronological youth. Consisting entirely of material selected from or contemporary with the three albums he released before he was 22, these 19 songs are dazzling evidence of the grace and spritz with which the kid fused teen spirit and prodigious virtuosity‑-an evolved rock and roll that articulates the romantic lyricism left implicit by Holly. Nothing wrong with implication. But you can feel it rising up in such unnecessarily obscure titles as "Slippery Fingers" and "Everybody's Missin' the Sun." A
The "big bohemian dick pull" was always my favorite carnival ride -- particularly when the carnies were well-scrubbed, definitely worth the six tickets.
a big bohemian dick-pullYep. With an interesting human back-story Susan Orlean did in The New Yorker. And that should have been the end of it.
NRBQ were the Boston misguideds I was trying to remember.
Daniel Johnston is halfway between the Shaggs and Jonathan Richman.Why didn't the robot-censor pick up on this? I ask ya.
He had it at #5 on his top 50.
Daniel Johnston is halfway between the Shaggs and Jonathan Richman.
impassioned defense of/attack on Mofungo
Before Rave On Buddy Holly flies off into the sunset, I want to note that it has inspired much more consideration from me than I would have supposed. Pre-EW I had blown it off as likely to be just as Tom Hull claimed:, “A masterpiece of modern niche marketing, picking over the faintly remembered teen pop genius from Lubbock, auctioning off the songs to the highest bidder -- even if that means Julian Casablancas gets the title cut -- mixing them together with no concern for flow or consistency figuring the latte-buyers will splurge if they find even a single appealing combo. “ After half a dozen times through though I now find that, while he was at least partially right about the way it looks from a marketing standpoint (not sure about the highest bidder part or how to find out), that doesn’t make it a bad record. In fact there is quite a lot that I enjoy hearing over and over again.
Starting with my favorite part – Johnny Badanjek’s drumming on “Heartbeat”. 45 years (45 YEARS!!!) after “Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly” and the mofo brings it as hard and crisp and fast as ever. Largely due to the drumming, but also because it’s a fun tune played with genuine rnr enthusiasm, I’m pretty well betting it will be in my Top 25 songs for the year. The Holly original does not start with a drum intro in case you haven’t checked. And it makes me wonder for about the 4 millionth time what life would have been like if he had won the audition. Max Weinberg, do you really know how lucky you were?
And then my second favorite part, which pretty well demolishes for me the notion of an album of niche marketing and nothing more – the subtexts that flash through so many songs: Paul McCartney singing the line “It’s so easy to fall in love” over and over again (you would know, Paulie); Cee Lo Green, who dresses like a peacock, pining for his “square” lover; Karen Elson singing “Crying, waiting, hoping you'll come back to me” while her soon to be ex-husband plays the drums behind her; the Lou and Laurie Velvets tribute snuck into the midst of a Buddy Holly tribute (seriously, how cool is that conceptually); and finally the very presence of Graham Nash. I completely agree with Hull’s description of “Raining In My Heart” as "dainty". I would have much preferred Brian Wilson to have gotten the call for that tune, just like I think that John Fogerty would have easily shown Modest Mouse the door on “That’ll Be the Day.” But in fact Nash is the perfect way to end the album. After all, he was a Hollie.
Oh, ho-ho -- now you've hit upon a particularly difficult case. Just discard all the overinflated hooey about his vast genius blah-blah-blah. Thing is, the guy's done about a half-dozen or so songs that have an unusual (I can't bring myself to claim "unique") pipeline to the unhinged subconscious. For example, "No More Hot Dogs" is a more convincing psychopath-killer song than the ones recorded by the real deals.
I donno. Those few numbers just sit there. Like the legend of walking by a street performer who changes your life with a searing declarative tune you can't remember the next day. (Or is that Ted Hawkins?)
a committed flouting of those normative skillsIn most cases here, I think we are talking about technique rather than skills. All these folks had enormous talents going for them, just not expressed with the accepted chops. The psychedelic Rounders were merely stoned out.
It's a persistent confusion to group performers with an annoying style in with performers who do not have even normative skills.Understood. Many of my friends and acquaintances do indeed group people like the Shaggs in with the Cocteau Twins with Nancy Sinatra in with underground, out-of-tune R&B, with amateurish folk-rock with Depeche Mode, the Magnetic Fields...etc etc.
hey had major exposure, were on a major label
Well, it isn't just that. Like 'em or hate 'em (a tiny bit goes a looong way with me) they have talent in the usual sense. It's a persistent confusion to group performers with an annoying style in with performers who do not have even normative skills.
Of course, a further confusion is that, for a long time, anything innovative in popular music was derided as having no skill. See drummer Kenny Clarke and his comment that bebop was "klook-mop music," which became so popular that his nickname was "Klook."
Sorry about that. I realize that they don't belong in the company of the Shaggs or Jandek as they had major exposure, were on a major label, etc. etc. It was just an off-shoot of your piece and not meant to derail it or misconstrue what you had said, which I liked very much.
Which item does not belong with the other two?
Maybe it has. Ended that is.
Hhmmm. You know, you may be right. Last "new" atrocity I can think of is The Langley Schools Music Project and that was way back right when irony died in 2001. The most significant projects Indefatigable Irwin Chusid has come up with since are books about Jim Flora (shame on you, Irwin -- he's talented in a completely conventional sense).
And "Why Won't the Oldies Get Off the Stage?" is a pervasive problem. Maybe I should relax and take the trash out to the dumpster of the past.
New biopic on Phil Spector coming soon. Directed by David Mamet. Starring Al Pacino as Spector.
Current listening: Tom Ze': Danc-Eh-Sa (Irara import 2006). Getting psyched up for the Ze' concert tomorrow night. He'll probably play Estudando o Bossa exclusively but I expect a fun surprising show nonetheless. I'll be wearing my "Expert Witness" T-shirt for those EW fans attending.
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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