Frank Ocean/Greenberger Greenberg Cebar
Words Before Music Done Right
Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Def Jam)
One, Nostalgia, Ultra wasn't perfect. Two, neither is this, but in a different way. There's no song here as astonishing as "Strawberry Swing," "Novacane," or "American Wedding"‑-two of which, you will note, exploit Other People's Music (not to mention the Other Man's Music), and all of which inhabit a narrative world simultaneously richer and more ordinary than the haut-monde demimonde of most of these songs. But the musical craft on this almost sampleless album is so even-keeled that there's no song here as forgettable as "There Will Be Tears" or "Dust" either. You could speculate that when he's the sole composer Ocean resists making a show of himself‑-resists the dope hook, the smart tempo, the transcendent falsetto itself. And just as his music is about control, he never promotes a subject matter I believe fascinates him in a cautionary way, as the assigned fate of the r&b elite. Definitely his official debut is about the demimonde, not of it. And definitely the verbal content rules. For a musical prodigy to be a writer first is a mitzvah. But that doesn't mean we have to share his fascinations. A MINUS
Greenberger Greenberg Cebar: Tell Me That Before (Pel Pel)
David Greenberger and his Duplex Planet project are old news, and there've been other recordings. But I'm not sure how many a music person would want, and can't imagine any of them improving on the new one I've fallen for: 17 subtly intonated dramatizations of words Americans in elder facilities have spoken to Greenberger followed by a multivocal 19-minute finale. No one's altogether bitter, but many are weary, and gradually the selections become not so much sadder as deeper, their bygone vernacular a bearer of authority and idiosyncrasy, reason and regret. Wise, deluded, confused, loving, placid, wacky, they reminisce and philosophize as they wait for the end, and Greenberger respects them all. Mark Greenberg provides each reflection with dedicated homespun accompaniment‑-bass and/or drums and/or keyboard, ukulele and/or accordion and/or vibraphone‑-that accents the musicality of their speech. The words would appear to be all. Yet every time your mind wanders, your ear tells you they're not. A MINUS
Going to see The Who perform "Quadrophenia".' Anyone got a
problem with that? Yeah, you. I'm talking to you. You talkin' to me?
Dewars ,rocks, twist- the other stuff only on your wallet
I"ll be at the Mercury Lounge Aug. 11 to see Wussy and LCC-who's buying?
I'l have a Glenmorangie as above. Neat is for the winter-rocks for the summer. That's the
way I roll.
Holding off on the Ocean album. His type of sound is always dissapointing. But one does have to jump in the pool on occasion. Just a rocker, baby. That's me.
Sorry, Milo, Jeanne just e-mailed her response:
"Forget it, Che! I don't date dorky record collectors from Xgauistan with 2,000 alphabetically arranged "albums" in their basements. Unless, of course, this "Milo" possesses the Holy Grail: an unopened original vinyl pressing of Rob Van Winkle's To the Extreme. For that, I date. For that, I put out. For that, I fake orgasm. Then smoke a Gauloises.
Jeanne d'Arc Vauche"
Ouch, buddy! Jeanne's always been something of an expletive-deleted-on-wheels. And since you've "been hearing this guff for 40 years," you're probably not up to her standards. Afraid you're just not vauche-ready, my friend. Few are, Milo, few are.
As for Frank O, I don't think anyone has mentioned the deceptively simple "We All Try". It's directness always perks my ears up in the context of the surrounding aural complexities, especially when N/u is on repeat.
Cam, I've never tried corn liquor, hard to get here, but I will keep an eye out. I have seen in New York the one that's sold in a jelly jar, as you'd call it, proudly claiming to be aged for 30 days. Sometimes new spirit with little aging can taste very good, but as always must be handled with care. We call moonshine "poitín" (pronounced put-cheen), with some commercial versions available now.
I like "Nature Feels" and Channel Orange surely can do with some more explicit sexual content - only now with all those semi, no, bi-curious songs it would be weird to get too explicit.
And power to our host for not mentioning Ocean's coming out in the review, I can't resist though.
Oh, I've just been forced by a friend to listen to Miss Joss Stone's "volume 2" (why can't they see it's a turn-off). As someone who love her voice, I think it's funkier than volume 1 and she made some magic on "Give More Power to the People". But I still rather have the pregnant and forgiven Adele or.. Irma Thomas?
Milo, sorry to disappoint. I am I; Sharpsm is Sharpsm; neither's a sockpuppet. But thanks for the fan mail. Hey, Milo, maybe I can set you up with my sister?
Entry #8, Track #10, “Swim Good”
My picture of 2011 finally forming under Frank Ocean, I began heavily texting my noise boys Nick and Ryan about our favorite music of the year, draining my new smartphone’s batteries while my family and I embarked on hikes, dinners, and more on the North shore of Lake Superior. We were still all figuring out how much we liked Watch the Throne, but we all agreed on my fresh favorite, nostalgia,ULTRA.
Lying down on the beach one evening by my cabin, I was listening to the album (like I had been for the entire short vacation), and texted girl I was chasing. I’d come back to school in just two and a half weeks, and I was growing more and more pessimistic about my outlook, judging where things might be heading from conversation and, of course, Facebook photos. I told her what I was listening to, that I was writing a song, that I was at the beach with my dog. After I sent it, “Swim Good” came on. My dog tried (and not for the first time) to swim in the lake, practically whimpering and hurting itself through the water’s coldness. I told Bjorn to get the hell out of there (he was in no real danger, but I always have to tell my silly dog to cut out the silly things he does).
I’ve hated the water for a lot of my life. It’s not a phobia. I just don’t like it. I hate getting my hands wet and used to abstain from washing them on the way out of the bathroom. I don’t really enjoy swimming, particularly in lakes, but water’s always been a helluva thing to look at. So I kept sitting out there.
Frank Ocean’s song of broken hearts, black suits, and funerals, backed by a beat that sounds like someone rhythmically shaking a large bag of coins, finds Frank both at his darkest and his most fun. He feels like a ghost, but then interjects “NO SWAYZE” and classically ****s a rhyme: “I’ve got this black suit on/Rolling around like I’m ready for a fyoonuh/RUHL.”
I could cite most any line in “Swim Good,” Ocean’s most densely clever song alongside “Novacane,” but what makes “Swim Good” so special is that it portrays its darkness with a lightness, and as I mentally prepared myself to get my heart seriously broken, “Swim Good” made me crack a smile.
(re.: The Essential Santana, they did go full-on corporate-rock in later years, but the songs from that period are still mostly memorable, plus they had always had corporate-rock tendencies in the first place - don't forget Journey started out as a Santana spin-off)
Current listening: A Place to Bury Strangers - Onward to the Wall
Santana - Welcome
I've been thinking I'd like to add 2 to 4 albums to my small Santana collection, but that discography is damned daunting. Right now I own Abraxas (which I like about three notches more than Xgau did when he graded it), Welcome (which I like one notch more than Xgau etc.), Havana Moon, Blues For Salvador and The Essential Santana (which I like about as much as he does). Given that info, if anyone felt like chiming in with their favorites, it'd be greatly appreciated. Albums preferred, but I wouldn't be averse to the right box. A good live set, either commercially available or bootleg would be nice, too.
We brewed white lightnin' 'til the sun went down
Then he'd fill him a jug and he'd pass it around
Mighty, mighty pleasin, pappy's corn squeezin'
Whshhhoooh . . . white lightning"
Saturday's show, delayed for technical reasons, now at http://i.mixcloud.com/CBa3Nh
Talking of aging, I've gone back another ten years to 1962. Music from The Drifters, Ben E King, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (my mother's original 50 year old vinyl!), Ray Charles, The Falcons, Solomon Burke, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, William Bell, Booker T and The MGs, Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd, and Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.
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.