Thursday, September 30, 2010

Extempore #4

For the 50th post on this blog, I would just like to say that ZEPPELIN ROCKS!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Les Savy Fav - Root for Ruin

Tim Harrington's antics at Les Sav Fav shows are legendary. The first five rows will often get wet, and I ain't takin' about water. The former webmaster of We Want the Airwaves Back, a 5 foot nothing Asian chick, briefly interviewed him immediately post-show for the zine and claims that when she said she couldn't hear him, he grabbed her by the head and spoke directly into her ear. At the show I saw, played in an alley at the Laneway Festival in Sydney, he stripped down to his underwear (dressy by his standards), revealing himself to be covered in fake sunburn and rambled incoherently for a while. During "Rome", he ran through the crowd (directly past me), climbed onto a wall and proceeded to abseil down it with the aid of one of the plants growing at the top. I'm told he didn't stick the landing as well as he appeared to and actually landed on a friend of mine nowhere near capable of supporting his weight. What does he have against short people? Anyway, it was the best festival set I'd ever seen until Neil Young played at the 2009 Big Day Out.

Even when he screams, which he's been doing less and less often these days, Harrington seems so much more restrained and thoughtful on record. Les Savy Fav's music has increasingly emphasised melody since Go Forth, but "Sleepless in Silverlake", which gently floats over the bassline for its duration, would have been inconceivable back then. Still, Root for Ruin rocks harder than 2007's Let's Stay Friends, and does so straight out of the gate with the up tempo "Appetites", which inexplicably borrows its closing phrase "I love you to the max" from Silver Jews' "Punks in the Beerlight".

Root for Ruin continues the holding pattern that Let's Stay Friends started, but is propelled along with the enthusiastic force of Les Savy Fav's early albums. Let's stay friends!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Richard Thompson - Dream Attic

Things haven't changed in the two minutes since I posted that Autolux review; I'm still pissed off about the state of modern rock music. Now a 61 year-old has come along to show all those mediocre practitioners of what passes for rock these days how it's done. They should be fucking embarrassed.

Granted, Richard Thompson is a fucking awesome 61 year-old. As the guitarist for Fairport Convention and a prolific solo artist since, he's made his Stratocaster squeal more times than you've had hot dinners. He's particularly known for transcendent live performances, and while Dream Attic isn't his first live album, it is his first comprised of all new material. I'm making it eligible for my yearly Top 10; right now it's number one and will be tough to budge.

Thompson's albums don't always start auspiciously, and so it is with Dream Attic. "The Money Shuffle" is a decent mid tempo rocker, but little more. Later on, however, the album becomes the best showcase in over a decade of Thompson's serpentine guitar solos. His most popular templates are there: the uptempo rocker ("Demons in Her Dancing Shoes"), the folk throwback ("Sidney Wells"), the mournful, glacially slow dirge ("Crimescene, "If Love Whispers Your Name") and the ridiculously catchy pop song ("Big Sun Falling in the River", which sounds a bit like "Wall of Death"). That is to say that that Thompson doesn't really break any new ground here, but his songwriting and performance are in such fine touch that it doesn't matter.

The deluxe edition comes with guitar and vocal demos of all of the songs - mostly acoustic guitar, vocals and nothing else. It's like having an alternative universe version of the album.

Richard Thompson - Electric

Autolux - Transit Transit

It's been six years since Autolux's debut Future Perfect helped make 2004 one of the best years of the last decade for music. It wore its influences of the past proudly while pointing to a future golden age of rock music that unfortunately never happened. Were it released today, it would still show up the watered down crap that passes for rock these days, and, presumably, slip under the radar and not inspire anyone to do anything about it.

Transit Transit doesn't start with Carla Azar's speaker-shaking drums. She holds back for the most part this time, but she's still what elevates Autolux from solid to compelling. Transit Transit is slower than Future Perfect and could use maybe one "Turnstile Blues", but it's never ponderous and is one of the most interesting albums to come out in some time. It's Kid A to Future Perfect's OK Computer in a sense, and veers off into Sergeant Pepper's-like tangents were its predecessor was more straightforward. It will be a vital album to sustain me during the impending long, mediocre season of rock.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Phil Selway - Familial

Until now, a Phil Selway solo album sounded like the punchline of a bad Radiohead joke. But now it's happened, and Radiohead members who haven't released something under their own name are now in the minority (get cracking, Ed and Colin!). Unfortunately there's not a cheap laugh to be had, because Familial isn't half bad. For starters, the boy can sing. He doesn't have anywhere near the range of Thom Yorke, but he wrings everything out of what he does have. His voice always has a hushed, Sam Beam-like quality, but he knows - probably due in no small part to Yorke - how to change the character of his voice to suit the song. He's also a decent guitarist and, although it can't be said that none of Familial's ten songs uses the same template as another, he has incorporated enough variety in the sparse, entirely acoustic arrangements that the album doesn't wear out its welcome. Familial is no Eraser or Bodysong, and let's face it, nothing is going to make the wait for the next Radiohead album more bearable, but as far as solo albums from the drummer go, it's one of the best.

Sex, War & Robots