Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Toons- Lucinda Williams, Sleater Kinney, Cheap Trick, Smithereens, Talking Heads

One great thing about working for a University is that when you get to travel to other college towns there's often a decent record store waiting for you. Last week I went to Lansing, MI and found Flat Black and Circular, one of those great old-school record shops with a devoted staff and lots of vinyl. Here's what I picked up:

Lucinda Williams, West: I've been trying to pick up new vinyl when I can, and generally hold out for those releases that I really think I'll spin in years to come. Lucinda is a real elder stateswoman of the alt-country movement, and her last few releases have been stunning works. So when I came across this one for $20, I picked it up. There has been some talk on the vinyl asylum about the quality of many new vinyl releases, and I will say that this one was a little questionable. Mainly it was disc tow which seems to have not had its outer edge trimmed, leaving a sharp, jagged edge. There's also one or two of those little 'pimples' in the vinyl. That said, it sounds great, especially after the wet cleaning. I say 'sounds' great, because the sonics are wonderful, as is the production. Keltner's drums in particular have that snap and realism that is hard to find sometimes, and the guitars are clear and tonally great. What's lacking a bit is the music.
Now don't get me wrong, Lucinda is a great songwriter, and this batch is pretty solid. But it's also a bit boring. Every tune is played in the same down tempo, and I fell asleep during both of my first two listens. The lyrical tales reflect losses in her family life, without a lot of edge or metaphor to sift through. If this were my only Lucinda release, it would probably be a great one, but sitting next to Car Wheels... or World Without Tears, it's only decent.

Sleater Kinney, The Hot Rock: Now we're cookin'! I've been picking up more from these girls lately, and considering their breakup last year each acquisition s bittersweet. This album continues the strong work of Dig Me Out where they picked up there final and best drummer Janet Weiss, and here she seems to really be fitting her playing into the amazing guitar work of Brown and Tucker. At the risk of relying hipster-vantage points here, I need to say that these girls have the intricate playing of Television down pat, but only better. Not only do the guitars interweave seamlessly through some amazingly jagged/melodic material, but their voices do the same. Seeing them do this live was nothing less than astounding. The best evidence of their complicated cohesion would be on "Burn, Don't Freeze", a stunning number I've had on MP3 but always needed to get a better copy of. A much better spin on the way to work than Lucinda's.

The Smithereens, Green Thoughts: For three bucks, nonetheless! I just love these guys and their Kinks meets garage/bar-rock thing. This second full length garnered some chart attention back in '88, and deservedly so. Not only do we hear more of their pop brilliance, but this one really introduces us to Pat DiNizio's downcast, cynical lyrical bent. Sample song titles: "Drown in My Own Tears", "Only a Memory", "House We Used to Live In", "Deep Black", "If the Sun Doesn't Shine". But while the lyrics may have that crappy outlook thing going for them, what keeps this from being a Mark Eitzel project is the wonderfully poppy hooks and melodies. Keep 'em coming, boys....

Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
: This is a replacement for a cassette copy that I have which is in really bad shape. Not much I can say about it which hasn't already been said. TH during this era were simply amazing, groundbreakers in every way. The rhythms alone on this disc from Franz/Weymouth are worth the price of admission; add Jerry Harrison's solid guitar and Byrne's vocals (and instrumental work) and we have a real classic. Screw the remastered cd's, this chunk of wax was a steal at ten time it's $3 price tag.

Cheap Trick, In Color: With this record I can now say that I have the full collection of essential early Cheap Trick. My buddy Ben always gives me shit for touting these guys, but he's only familiar with their 80's drivel (and I guess "I Want You to Want Me") and missed out on their incredible early stuff. The Trickers made four-four rock and roll worth listening to at the end of the Seventies, and this one, their second release, is a five-star gem. The whole record is a standout, but the original "...Want You..." sticks in the head with it's swinging bubblepop that is so much better than the arena-fired At Budokan version.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

AIr Guitar

AIr Guitar
Originally uploaded by TerryB_VT.
Any self-respecting guy would rather be caught pounding his pud than playing air guitar. But Alice loves it! So we rocked out today to a little Hoodoo Gurus....