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
Radio City is my fave record of all time and, after reading all the cool comments, I'm eager to add my 2 cents into the mix. In regard to Chilton's guitar playing , I consider it to be the missing link between Reed/Morrison and Verlaine/LLoyd and later Malkmus/Kannberg style of playing/interaction . He managed to take the Velvet's angular/conversational minimalism in their more poppy/calmer moments (listen to Story of My Life or I'm Set Free) and transposed it to a single guitar and girded that with his love of British invasion music. (Speaking of which-Have you guys heard the Lesa Aldrige cover of Story of My Life- I believe Chilton is playing feedback guitar on it if I'm not mistaken)To me , the distance between Life is White or You Get What You Deserve and Venus De Milo or Elevation is indeed very short. I also think that Chilton was a deconstructionist at heart. As his career progressed, the records became more deliberately spontaneous and less planned out or composed . He honestly believed that the spirit of Rock and Roll was anarchic and untutored and records like Like Flies on Sherbert and The Singer Not the Song ep reinforce his commitment to this concept. Where the concept of deconstruction really applies is in Chilton's disregard to prevailing Arena Rock orthodoxy at the time these records were made. In this, his affinity with New Wave could not be more clearer- one can even interpret Chilton's motives as being a bit reactionary like many of his fellow punk/new wave compatriots. However, to these ears, Radio City strikes the perfect balance between respect for you elders and setting out on the new frontier with a tuning fork to the future.
Much as I love #1 Record, there is somewhat of a Crosby, Stills and Nash taint to some of the folkier songs on Side 2. Maybe, it's the arrangements-there is a version of Watch the Sunrise floating on the web from a '78 concert with Alex & The Cossacks that's much more compelling(kinda sounds like Murmur era REM IMO). Try Again sounds uncomfortably close to Isn't It a Pity for me to truly appreciate it- Bell would go on to perfect this type song on I Am The Cosmos .
Sister Lovers is where the deconstruction process takes full bloom and still bears remarkable results. Kangaroo was basically recorded on a dare with Dickinson prodding Chilton to take the full plunge into chaos. What's so interesting about this 'chaotic' record is how, in hindsight, the seemingly conflicting sounds and timbres seem orchestrated and dare I say it,fully realized . Pete Doherty would certainly learn a thing or 2 from this record.
So between these six-day, 50+ hour weeks installing and servicing sprinklers across suburban New Jersey, I’ve been hard (but not hard enough) at work on my own attempt at a 33 1/3 proposal. I’m giving my fair shot at The Meadowlands, since a) I ****ing adore the Wrens and have been absorbing their very manageable discography for months and months, b) I’m right here in New Jersey, still despondent about my own sense of failure and working a manual labor grind between sessions of pretending I’m a songwriter, and c) 2013 will be the album’s tenth anniversary, so it all just sort of feels right. And truly, what with all the Wrens songs about post-adolescent misery and the inability to self-motivate (plus those couple of dropped references to rock-splitting), I’ve rarely felt closer to a single artist’s music. (I mean, I don't always relate to the Go-Betweens' deeply felt watercolor poetry).
Most of you are probably thinking, “uh-oh, Ryan’s in over his head again (naturally)”. And I’m perfectly aware that the publishers of the series are probably pretty selective, and that a guy with nary a CV credit bar his whatever-it-is blog and a few months of volunteer writing at a shitty DFW weekly (though they loved me!) stands a significantly slim chance at even being momentarily mulled by [whoever just bought the series]. In fact, Charles Bissell divulged to me via e-mail that he himself has been turned down by those guys: "I had submitted proposals for some 33 1/3 possibilities a few years back but they were all given the 'what else do you have in mind?' stamp. 'Til Tuesday, ok, I can see why, but I'd also submitted Slanted & Enchanted, Exile in Guyville, the 2nd Springsteen album...”
Still, I can’t help but feeling that maybe some of the compliments I’ve gotten around here might mean something (the dangers of praising young people with undeveloped potential!), and really, if that clown who did the Wowee Zowee book can get it, a proposal is at least worth trying. But with a touch over two weeks to go ‘til I send it in, I should probably stifle my embarrassment and open up the question to this ever-invaluable community: could anybody here who knows just a little bit more about this kind of thing (i.e. everybody) give me whatever general advice comes to mind about maybe increasing my odds here? Because truth be told, however unlikely, I really do want this opportunity.
Cheers & love,
Me, the misser, the late
I’ve read the recent call for proposals for the 33 1/3 series, as well as the previous one from 2010, and the most important thing you need to realize is that the publisher and the editorial policy have clearly changed dramatically. Reading old titles in the series will probably not help you.
Whereas the previous editorship was looking for a variety of personal and creative voices for the series, the new publisher is announcing itself clearly as an academic publisher looking for academic titles. The new call for proposal reads “[we are looking for] perspectives that will broaden and develop the discipline of writing about music, as read by a global readership of music scholars and fans.” “Discipline” and “scholars” are the key words; “fans” is clearly an afterthought. They believe their primary market is academic libraries, professors, and classroom use texts. The series has previously published books about Neutral Milk Hotel and Magnetic Fields and PJ Harvey that are clearly addressed to fans as cult members. The new call for proposals, unfortunately, doesn’t lead me to believe that the new editors will be open to books like that.
This doesn’t mean lower selling albums aren’t going to get a hearing at all. It probably does mean that you can only position a Meadowlands book by emphasizing it as a text in the sociology of North Jersey and of the present generation of underemployed and/or employed but not necessarily at jobs that provide careers, security, or fulfillment individuals. This could be highly marketable for local area courses or courses related to the current job market and the experience of people 25-40 in the current US. Meadowlands does clearly lend itself to this kind of book. I’m basically suggesting that the kind of book where you interview the band and emphasize the personal-creative aspect of the work would definitely have interested the old regime but doesn’t appear to be what the new regime is looking for.
One thing you have on your side is the imminent destruction of the stadium. The words “Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball” should probably appear in your proposal, because you can count on your readers having heard of him. They like what they call “context.”
I have published an academic book – indeed once upon a time got tenure, though I quit because I hated the job. If you want to run a draft proposal by me, I could perhaps help you position your proposal for academic readers.
Ok so I hate to be THAT GUY that redirects back to the sexy talk, but it's just one of my most enduring personality flaws.
We got in early and stayed for two openers, one of whom was the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The deets of the BJM's performance deserve thousands of words, but they essentially self-destructed on stage, swore they'd never perform again, and blamed their inability to get through a song on the crowd. This is detailed in the film Dig! as the night they had a big industry crowd to please and whiffed completely, but it always endeared them to my heart as one of the finest pieces of performance art I've ever stumbled upon. I saw them maybe a half-dozen more times in the '90s and always enjoyed their shambolic ways, even if the records are nothing special.
Anyway, Oasis strutted out as if the world were already at their feet, even though most of us didn't know but one or two songs. Liam had the Nigel Tufnel wad of gum going in his cheek when he wasn't singing and one or both of the brothers wore sunglasses throughout the set in this darkest of little clubs. One thing I will say for them: they were without any question the loudest band I've ever seen, even in that small place. Every one of us dove for the earplug counter within a song or two. They were already playing at stadium volume even then. Verdict then and now: bluster, a little muscle, some tuneage, lotsa wankery, and an indomitable ****ness apparent even from the start.
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.
live local music on
Enter your ZIP code to see concerts happening in your area.
Data provided by Zvents