Oh--You Mean Those Beatles
Cotton Mather: Kontiki (Deluxe Edition) (Star Apple Kingdom)
Pieced together in 1997 from impulsively conceived, doggedly recorded scraps of DAT and four-track by Austin mastermind Robert Harrison and a Memphis tape wizard who loved how Big Star the band was, Cotton Mather's second album caught the attention of some British Beatles fanatics d/b/a Oasis, who brought them over to open and even generated some U.K. sales. While allowing his vocal resemblance to "John Lennon with a Southern accent and a head cold," Harrison's extensive notes don't cite the Beatles much even though "My Before and After" resembles "Ticket to Ride" more than its supposed inspiration "(Reach Out) I'll Be There" and "Private Ruth" echoes "For No One" straight up. Harrison is no more a genius than Noel Gallagher, so though the lyrics aren't spaced-out gibberish or obvious pap, they're unequal to the music‑-which definitely beats, for instance, the last three songs on the first Big Star album, and even more remarkable, kind of makes you appreciate Oasis. (N.B.: I'm recommending the Deluxe because it's new and much cheaper, not because I expect ever to listen to its alternates and new ones for anything except the research I presume is now complete.) B PLUS
Oasis: Stop the Clocks (Sony BMG '06)
One of the many things I never got about this band was where the Beatles were. Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting? Cotton Mather made me understand that when Oasis say they love the Beatles they really mean they love the post-Help!, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles. Since that span encompasses Rubber Soul and Revolver, many would say tally ho, but (a) not me 'cause I love the Beatles start to finish and (b) only if you're writing songs as good as, uh, "We Can Work It Out." Instead Oasis, meaning loudmouth bro Noel Gallagher, write songs that resemble "We Can Work It Out" in thickened texture and momentum but not depth or charm, then add arena size in the swagger of the drums and the bigged-up vocals themselves. This band-selected best-of‑-two discs lasting 87 minutes, like an old-fashioned double-LP except it's only 18 tracks‑-capture their sonic moment as fully as any freelance music historian needs. A 2010 package repeats 11 of these songs and adds 16 others‑-too many, I say. Also, it omits the opening "Rock 'n' Roll Star." If ever there were guys whose message to the world is summed up by an opener called "Rock 'n' Roll Star," it's these bigheads. B PLUS
It was a tough realization for this indie/punk lifer that the guitar kids just weren't doing it for me these days, but it's undeniable that there's some mild crisis point ongoing in that world, which I see very little evidence of changing anytime soon
a tweet review from SPIN --
AARON FREEMAN/Marvelous Clouds/8:Not an atom of irony to be found on Gene Ween's glorious rediscovery of Rod McKuen. -- Richard Gehr
back to regularly scheduled ...]
Greg Morton, Das Racist mention Rap Genius in "Middle of the Cake" ("Rap Genius dot com is white devil sophistry") which provoked an adorable answer rap from Rap Genius' own Maboo: http://goo.gl/RcKA5
Mark Rosen, I want to marry your post.
A few random notes...
Regarding Chiddy Bang (and I apologize for the carry-over, I wasn't paying attention). Their supporters dig them because the hooks are solid gold -- I don't know how anyone could deny them in the short run. In the long run however, Brad's right -- their songs don't have much calorie content to them. If they haven't experienced anything as profound as the love for a son (as Will Smith did in that marvelous song of his) maybe you can chalk that up to their age. I still say the songs are good, and they're a band to watch.
I also am not so hot on the latter half of Big Star's debut. If anything there was as good as "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," I'd still say they should have sequenced it differently. As it stands, the record does kind of take a disappointing detour after "When My Baby's Beside Me," my favorite song on that record. Talk about your Beatles imitations -- and they didn't have to directly rip off the Beatles to achieve it.
I loved the second Oasis album at the time, but the releases that came after that definitely re-arranged my opinion on them. On the other hand, in hindsight, I am impressed that they buried some of their best songs on b-sides. I'm thinking specifically of "Acquiesce." Not as good a song as "Rain" (or "How Soon is Now," the b-side of "William, It Was Really Nothing"), but hey, what is?
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.