My Bloody Valentine/The Vaselines
Brits I missed
My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (Relativity '88)
Having caught up with this band a little too late to slip their debut album into my '80s book, I grabbed the chance to look back and noticed what I would have missed then: how songful it is. Pioneers in the rejection of melody just then transforming the dance music their own electronica concept runs parallel to, they're too busy rehabbing Jesus and Mary Chain to immerse forthwith in the grand and ugly atmospherics that would make Loveless a pomo classic. In other words, they haven't rejected melody yet, and on the half of the album where they manage a seamless meld they carry a tune on some of the most gut-wrenching guitar textures then yet heard, and not only that‑-although lyrics are irrelevant to this achievement, the "Loved me black and blue" of Bilinda Butcher's "No More Sorry" could be about what her daddy did and could be about hiding it from him, and Kevin Shields's "Sueisfine" definitely doesn't advise suicide and definitely does live with it. Pretty sharp for the love-is-pain school, I'd say. A MINUS
The Vaselines: Sex With an X (Sub Pop '10)
Back when Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly were charming the eyelashes off Kurt Cobain, they were a couple, and when they stopped being one they stopped being the Vaselines. Twenty years later give or take, they were friendly exes who'd never really found anything better to do. So to have some fun and pick up a spot of change, they got together and, no longer able to extrude their couplehood, instead said "Let's write some Vaselines songs." Title notwithstanding, there's somewhat less sex in these, and listeners who set store in self-expression might conclude that the slight dip in urgency reflects the new material's factitious origins. Compared to so many reunion albums, however, it's like they never left. Simple, funny, acerbic, tuneful, they're a cabaret act for people who can't play their instruments but have some facile friends with nothing better to do either. B PLUS
I'm a longtime reader and a big fan. I really admire how well you write, how articulate in meaning and tone your capsule reviews are. Often I'll browse through your site when I'm bored to read some jokes I missed or to glean some offhand insights into the workings of acknowledged classics or utter schlock. So I really appreciate that you've continued writing on this Expert Witness blog - I love hearing what you have to say, even when I disagree with your judgment, because you say it so well.
I'm excited that you decided to do a capsule review of "Isn't Anything", which based on contemporary essays of yours was something you liked a lot at the time ("missed, could be A") but never did a formal capsule review of. As a fan of yours, and a big fan of the Wrens, I'd love to hear your take on "Secaucus", another excellent album which based on other essays you liked ("there's a relationship sequence in the middle that lays on the hurt") but which again didn't get a formal capsule review. I would be very interested in your analytical take on that album - it's always neat to see these albums through someone else's very articulate perspective.
Michael Tatum’s Peter-Stampfel-at-the-Oscars joke got me looking around and it turns out Mr. Stampfel has finally released “****ing Sailors in Chinatown”. Just downloaded it from a recording he made in 2012 called A Sure Sign of Everything.And “Jonathan Sings!” is great.
I'm pro-"Roadrunner" but not so much "Modern World". Too close to "I'm Straight." Back then, "drop out of B.U." was code for "quit being a politically correct rebel." (And there's rumors that "drop out of high school" was more what Jonathan was into, anyway.) As a mid-'70s cultural politician, Richman was enormously prescient about at least one item: being a reactionary will soon be seen as rebellious.
Thank you beyond words for sharing that with us. For believing that we were the safe and appropriate place to do it justice, and to honor your thoughts and feelings.
The Ani diFranco/KRS-One story set the perfect scene. I've never had a music buddy that was any deeper than "No really. Desperado is a great album." and I've always considered it a personal loss. That you had such a buddy and that he was taken away so suddenly and so early in life has got to have left a huge gaping space.
It was an honor to be able to read those memories.
My recommended way to experience Shirley Bassey doing all of her Bond themes is the double-disc collection *Best of Bond ... James Bond: 50 years -- 50 Tracks*. First part's mostly vocals, second part mostly the orchestrations. The "50 tracks" requirement becomes ill-advised only on the "WHAT THE --" blackface number "Under the Mango Tree" by Diana Coupland, then-wife of Monty Norman, whose orchestra did the *Dr. No* score.
Peter Stampel was asked to sing "Goldfinger" at the Oscars, but had to decline due to prior engagements.
The next Bond movie will be titled "****ing Sailors in Chinatown."
Shirley Bassey was great-but as regards the show as a whole-like I've stated many times-
thank god for the fast forward button.
"...that note she capped with isn't something you'd expect out of just any old 76-year-old."
The old broad can still belt a tune, that's for sure. We should all have that much verve (not to mention lung power) at her age.
The soundtrack makes the best possible case for Rodriguez, includes all his strong numbers from his albums plus a couple good rarities and leaves out his not-inconsequential stinkers. Still think it's no more than a high ** collection. I could have looked like a prophet a few years ago when Light in the Attic reissued the two LPs, but the South Africa story was very unclear at that time. Thought *Cold Fact* was good with a couple unfortunately half-baked clunks, but the followup was overproduced and the songwriting faltered. So I passed.
As long as people don't get into sanctifying Rodriguez (or his art, anyway), it's a satisfying bio with a long-shot happy ending.
Here's another big "thumbs up" for "Searching For Sugar Man". While lyrically (rightfully so) bitter and (possibly - he was lots of things) misogynistic 40+ years ago, Rodriguez now comes across as an incredibly noble man. It will bring you to tears. I loved the film and like the soundtrack. Wonder if "our host" ever played his two albums back in the day? Original copies are selling up to several hundred dollars each on "the bay". Unlike some of his South African fans, I don't think he belongs in the same sentence as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones - but I'm rooting for the movie tonight!
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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