Friday, July 30, 2010

Extempore #1

If people had any goddamn sense, Metric would be the biggest band in the world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is a vapid, androgynous automaton.

The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (Deluxe Edition)

The Rolling Stones made Exile on Main Street for somebody's sins, but not mine. It's a double album in the same way that London Calling and Daydream Nation are double albums: they don't fit onto two sides of vinyl, the dominating format at the time. Double albums often come at the peak of a band's creativity, a time when to put out another dozen or so songs seems like a facile endeavour - it's surprising that the late 60s produced as few as it did, it being at time when an album a year was standard.

Exile on Main Street is many people's favourite Rolling Stones album, but I'll take its predecessor, the concise ten song set Sticky Fingers over it any day. Exile lacks the restless eclecticism of London Calling and with Keith Richards as chief songwriter, doesn't play host to the warring personalities of its members as does The Beatles (The White Album). It doesn't even bother with a concept, as The Wall did, and not much of it is given over to experimentation. Pared down its best tracks, Exile makes a very good single album, but still not one that matches Let It Bleed or Sticky Fingers. "Tumbling Dice" vs "Brown Sugar"? No "dice". "Sweet Black Angel" vs "Wild Horses?" Fuck off.

The Deluxe Edition comes with a bonus disc out outtakes. The quality is surprisingly high for such a disc and demonstrates that the Stones weren't the best judges of their own material; Exile could have been improved by replacing some of its duds with some of these songs, especially "Plundered My Soul".

You might be wondering why I hate Exile on Main Street. That's a question I can't answer, because I don't hate it. I actually like it quite a bit. I just like some other Rolling Stones albums a hell of a lot more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hunters & Collectors - Horn of Plenty box: The Way to Go Out/Under One Roof/Natural Selection (DVD)

"But I know you want more!" as Tim Shaw would have said 17 years ago, and as it so happens, although I've reviewed all 14 CDS in the Horn of Plenty box, there are still the 2 DVDs to go.

The Way to Go Out (1985) is an appropriately raw-sounding show, originally released on VHS as well as CD. It's not for casual fans, but it's a good one to have if you love The Jaws of Life as much as I do. You could probably find better bootlegs on the internet these days though.

Under One Roof (1998) is a Sydney show from the band's farewell tour. The sound and picture are superb and the set is a decent representation of the band's entire career. Mark Seymour's voice had smoothed out considerably by this point, but he was able to revisit his 1984 self and belt out a convincing "42 Wheels".

Natural Selection contains every promo video the band ever did. Whoop-dee-doo. It's best for multiple sittings if you're likely to get weary watching 18 videos by the same band. There's not much else to say except to note that "Carry Me" is same version (both the audio and video) as that featured in "The Way to Go Out".

Well, now I've reviewed the entire contents of the Horn of Plenty box. I'm going to go to sleep for a month.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hunters & Collectors - Horn of Plenty box: Cargo Cult/Mutations/Spare Parts

We're into the odds and ends now, but that's by no means a bad thing. Cargo Cult (2008), exclusive to Horn of Plenty, rounds up three EPs: World of Stone (1981), Payload (1982) and Living Daylights (1987 - a tribute to Timothy Dalton's first outing as James Bond from the same year, perhaps?). The CD actually contains a fuckup: it stars with "Run Run Run" instead of World of Stone's title track, then crams "Watcher" and "Loinclothing" into one track. That EP is a dry run for the slightly better structured Krautrock-aping style of the debut; the title track basically repeats itself until it passes the seven and a half minute mark. Payload (1982) is presumably made up of Fireman's Curse outtakes, but the latter two songs would have been more than welcome there. It's a sonically fascinating EP more than anything else, and Doug Falconer is at his heavily percussive best. Fast forward five years and Living Daylights gives you even more options besides the Fate tracks for imagining how much better What's a Few Men? could have turned out, or perhaps Human Frailty if they'd waited a bit. "Inside a Fireball" is some catchy shit right there, and either album would have benefited from its presence.

Mutations (2005) shares its name with a Beck album that was disingenuously marketed by Geffen as not being "officially" the next entry in his catalogue. Hunters & Collectors' Mutations is accurately described as such, however, given that it is a b-sides and rarities collection. It's better than most, too. "I'm Set Free", unlike "Run Run Run", is a Velvet Underground cover, and a creative one at that. "Know Your Product" is more perfunctory and a more predictable choice of cover; just as The Saints probably felt obliged to cover Motown classics when they availed themselves of a horn section, Hunters in turn probably thought it was a waste not to cover the horniest of Saints songs. "Mind of an American" is a disappointing way to finish off the collection. It's an unimaginative jab at US foreign policy - better leave that to Midnight Oil and stick to local concerns.

Spare Parts (2008) is the far less substantial and far more asterisk-ridden of the two rarities collections. Everything here besides the original 1984 version of "Throw Your Arms Around Me" is either a live recording or a remix. Meh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hunters & Collectors - Horn of Plenty box: Living in Large Rooms/...And Lounges

Given Hunters & Collectors reputation as a live band, the Living in Large Rooms and Lounges 2 CD set (1995) is a valued possession amongst completists, a group that technically includes me now. The problem inherent in all live albums, though, is that the better they are, the more they remind the listener that they are no substitute for having actually attended the concert in question or one like it. People who have seen Hunters & Collectors live, a group which will probably never include me, will likely tell you that about these albums. Hell, the audiences at the two shows in question will tell you as you listen by way of their rapturous applause and sing-along shenanigans.

Living in Large Rooms documents a typical pub show from 1995. As such, the early stuff is fairly represented; the period of 84-89 accounts for roughly half the set. "42 Wheels" explodes through the speakers, demonstrating that the band was still capable of an extraordinary performance at this late stage of its career, and it makes me wish they'd included "The Slab" and "Inside a Fireball" among others. The later stuff demonstrates that the band was able to judge the relative merits of its own material, or at least its suitability to a live setting; see "Easy" in particular.

...And Lounges is a strange album indeed. An acoustic Hunters & Collectors show, eh? To paraphrase Dr. House, "that makes sense...if you don't think about it for more than two seconds". The conceit necessitates the balance to shift towards the band's later, more ballad-heavy material ("True Tears of Joy, "Courtship of America") and greatly renders inert the earlier stuff ("When the River Runs Dry" loses its electric thunder and "The Slab" makes no sense at all). "Betrayer" and "Holy Grail" sound fine, and of course it would have been baffling to exclude "Throw Your Arms Around Me", but I prefer the Human Frailty version. The most confounding aspect of the album is the inclusion of "Say Goodbye" as a secret track, having already included it in the main set as well as that of its sister album.

Sex, War & Robots