Friday, March 12, 2010

Meat Puppets - s/t

You know what song F U C K I N G S U C K S ? "December" by Collective Soul.
However, it must be stated that such a song acts as a rather peculiar variable when unleashed upon the subject (ie my ears). As if introduction of the song induces a powerful, very particular emergence of internal chemicals, I find my larynx, tongue, lungs, and esophagus contort and spasm, and on the gust of my exhalation, an archaic and guttural maelstrom of primitively aligned consonants and vowels clump together and pulse through my gums and out my gaping mouth: "p... p... pantywaists...".
You remember Collective Soul, don'tcha? That agonizingly lame "post-grunge" band from the mid 90's? The one who's slogan was "grungey as a box of wet matches and a flaccid scrotum"?

In conclusion, Meat Puppets' first album.
I know I've toted this as my favorite Meat Puppets album in the past, but really now, how can I make such a claim when their catalog totes such visionary works such as II, Up On The Sun, and the great, yet non-visionary (even trashed) Monsters and Huevos?. Because I'm more unique than the most unique of us. dgvjhvbkdb.
I'm probably too scatterbrained to be writing this right now, but fuck you, I play by my own rules so I must offer up my sincerest apologies, my good sir or ma'am.

(ugh, even that strikethrough text gag was a lazy abortion)

Y'see, Meat Puppets The First is quite pretty much irrelevant to the rest of the band's works (if you exclude the preceding In A Car EP), and instead presents the band as a wildly idiosyncratic hardcore punk band with more sloppy twang than a pubfull of inebriated cowboys. Even this early in the game, Kirkwood was busting with clever riffage and compositional know-how, which fortunately was executed here as haphazardly as humanly tolerable in the midst of a 3-day LSD recording haze - rehearsal style; not to mention the Darby Crash with head trauma, making-fun-of-'tards, vocal style. In a way, it's similar to Flipper's Generic, but the with tight skinsmanship taking precedent over the anchor-like qualities the comparison's bass had beneath the drugged-up guitar slop. I'm honestly having a lot of trouble thinking up any albums that come close to the sound achieved here, so let's just settle on it's uniqueness as a piece that could potentially sit between your earlier Half Japanese, Thrown Ups, and Happy Flowers records (but not necessarily sound like any of those bands).
All in all, this is one of those rare albums that has to be heard without the band's more "accomplished" works in tow; the 21 sparse minutes of unhinged riff-slop and lunatic wailing teetering ever so gracefully atop the snappy drumming is goddamn ridiculous and makes for a massively enjoyable repeat listen. If you lose focus, just give it another shot - it'll sink in soon.

In conclusion, elephants are the heaviest land mammal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kimya Dawson - Remember That I Love You

For startsies, the film Juno isn't how I found about the music of Kimya Dawson, The Moldy Peaches, or even Antsy Pants. You see, all I care about deep down is the maintenance of my credit as a deeply subversive, blindingly hip outsider who enjoyed certain things "before they were cool" back in high school, I was friends with a lovely little musky-aroma'd, axillary hair-unshaven, veggie-consuming, environmentalist lass with what I can tell now, a lot more maturity than I had at the time (as well as a lot more lofty idealism and conviction, but that's another matter for a more "bloggy" blog than this'un) and a great love of the anti-folk movement. After exchanging a few mix-tapes (that were actually CD-Rs, but I'm a romantic), she finally handed me one filled to the diameter's edge with her favorite Kimya Dawson songs. Being relatively unfamiliar with folk of any suit at the time, I was hooked instantly and proceeded to gobble up everything I could find of her's.

A few months later, the album on the left was released, and I immediately loved it from beginning to end. Come 2007, Juno features a few songs from here on the soundtrack and all the hepcats are shitting themselves over the infringement of their sacred territory. Listening to her catalog again for the first time in close to 2 years, I'm still impressed by what I hear. After the decidedly more hi-fidelity, full sound of 2004's critically acclaimed Hidden Vagenda, Remember That I Love You sounds like a retreat to the minimalism of her earlier works but still pulling the guest-instruments in tow including ukulele, vocal harmonies, mandolin, and chimey, unringing keyboards - all encased in a warm production style that's clean as it is claustrophobic.

Getting waaaay ahead of myself there, but if you've never heard any of Kimya Dawson's material, it's a pretty subdued and bare, acoustic folk sound (no scratched cords) accented by various low-key instruments and sweet, childish vocals bespeaking lots of clever, sometimes abstract, but mostly personal lyrics loaded with cultural references and commentary on the US's socio-political ongoings.
In my mind, Remember That I Love You is Kimya's best album for one simple reason: the songs are all great. Each one is memorable, sonically interesting and digestible, accessible and fully developed. Plus, it aces on a nostalgic level. A few tracks in and I'm sitting on the aforementioned girl's porch assessing our friend's descents into drug abuse and rehabilitation. RIP SNORTIN' FUN! I can see this stuff not being your thing if you're a fan of the more left field crazy shit I post here regularly, but if you're having an identity crisis, check this out.

Also: even if I hated Juno (which I can't say I do, despite it being eye-rollingly stylized indie dork fodder), Ellen Page is adorably boyish and looks sprite as a 12 year old.

(a comment that proved most insightful years later as a gangly, bloodied and battered Steve Hughes was escorted from his shelter in the woods to court on counts of homosexual pedophilia)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sun City Girls - Dante's Disneyland Inferno & 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda

Skimming through here, improbability of all improbabilities, I somehow avoided showcasing my love for everyone's favorite triangle of unclassifiable wankmaestros, the Sun City Girls. Dabbling and Wonka brand "Fun Dipping" in everything from improv, free-jazz, ethno-eastern traditionals, lounge sleaze jazz, folk Americana, and whatever else paints a target on itself, the 'Girls has one of the most fantastic and expansive catalogs out there - close to 20 full length LPs, an even greater slew of cassettes, an oodle-point-five of live albums (most of which fly under the Carnival Folklore Resurrection series), a wickerbasket of "7 inches, and a hammock of singles collections (one of which, Box Of Chameleons, clocks in at 3 stuffed CDs and is littered with prank calls the 'Girls made in the 70's (?)).
Anyhoover vacuum, today we're covered 1996's excursion into the uber-epic with the two double-CD full lengths, Dante's Disneyland Inferno and 330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda. Unfortunately, like most of Sun City Girls' catalog, they were quick to vanish from the label rosters and the remaining copies made their collective way into the fat-pocketed collector dips. Then, come 2001, Locust Records kindly reissued the duo on monstrous triple LP formats - repressings of the most tasty and extravagant kind. Unfortunately (again), within a year or so, they disappeared back into the ether without a squeak since (like anyone would expect from a small label issuing such a costly, limited audience package).

SO: Movement The First -
Both a major departure from their previous work and an expansion of some of their earliest ideas, Dante's Disneyland Inferno is a strongly dialogue/lyric-cornerstoned album with yakking taking precedent over the tunes for once. There are a handful of full fledged songs on here (and GREAT ones at that), but for the most part, what we have is a mesmerizing collage of sickness, absurdity, and religious mockery delivered by mouth and propelled by background instrumentation. Lots of lounge jazz, screwed-up folk meanderings, bongos, ambiance, and whatever else fits. If you ever found Bishop's lyrics clever on past releases, this is a fucking shrine to these sensibilities, and all gold to it, as it's one of the most consistently disturbing and hilarious recordings I can think of. Plus, it's the return of the wizened Uncle Jim, has a comic adaptation of the song "The Brothers Unconnected", and contains the lines "Is that Prince Albert in a can? Or is it just Prince Albert in your mind?". Brilliant stuff here.
THEN: Movement The Second -
330,003 Crossdressers From Beyond The Rig Veda. Poignant. Deep. This is the perfect counterpart to the talkative aforementioned, as it's a monstrously epic music focused release with but a small handful of decipherable lyrics to be found. Presumably Dante's... parasitically drained this'un of mouth-jive. This is apparently considered to be the quintessential Sun City Girls album as it sounds more like a retrospect of the band's entire career rather than a singular vision cooked up for one release. Intriguing, no? The first portion of the album is made up of polished actual songs in the vein of the first 4 LPs, while the second half is a loose, beautiful mixture of ragas, free-jazz, and improv, including the hypnotic epics/epic (depending on whether you own the CD or LP version) "Ghost Ghat Trespass" and "Sussmeier"; the former being an incredible raga piece with Eyvind Kang on violin accompanied by the 'Girls drum 'n guitar antics, the latter being a huge, rattling improv that gets better on subsequent listens.
Apparently, according to Richard Bishop, these two releases were supposed to be a spiritual follow-up to the notes and sentiments exhibited on their first handful of releases, which is pretty clear if you've heard the bulk of their work. Sadly, drummer Charles Gnocher died in the past few years, putting their career to an end. It's hard to imagine how much losing your bandmate of 20 years must suck, but Rick Bishop is still performing under his name today and offering up a slew of great albums. Summed up, these are two albums you need: two masterpiece triple albums from one of the best bands out there.