Travis – The Boy With No Name

31 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 28

It pains me to note this as a long time Travis fan, but their later albums don’t have the same oomph as they used to, as a whole. There’re still beautiful songs on The Boy With No Name – 3 Times And You Lose, Closer, My Eyes, Colder – but some of the songs I feel are not up to the usual standard, New Amsterdam especially. “And we meet on Bleeker Street in the park that is central”… ughhh. That sounds like something a wannabe teenage poet would write.

Also, it bugs me that the guitar and beat on Selfish Jean are so close to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. I know musicians borrow all the time, but sheesh. I like the song in general, but that Lust for Life guitar intro bugs me every time I hear it.

I’m harder on those I love, clearly.

Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner

30 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 28

I don’t remember how I heard about Dizzee Rascal – I probably read about him in Spin and had to hear what a 19-year-old black British rapper sounded like. The answer is: like absolutely nothing else. He raps incredibly fast and the music and samples have a sound like nothing I can think of, certainly not American rap. He wrote many of the songs in high school in computer labs and the sound of the beats bear that out. Having seen him at Coachella some years ago I can attest that he is an above-average freestyler – he made up several lengthy acapella raps on the spot. He also pushes the limits of your British slang knowledge, even if you know a lot already.

Dizzee has a lot of the normal rapping subject matter – sex, violence, ego – but is a bit more poetic about it than the usual. Jezebel is blunt portrayal of what can happen to girls with no self-esteem outside of their sexual abilities. I Luv U is a song you’ll be singing in your head for ages – Dizzee and a girl bait each other about how the other’s partner is cheating on them and why they should do something about it, all backed with a sample chanting “I I I I I I Luv U” and very computer generated beats.

This foray into a genre of music I don’t normally buy was worth it.

U2 – Boy

30 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 28

Some people don’t realize Boy has two covers. The top one is the international cover (and the Boy is the same boy as on the later War album). The bottom one is the US cover. The story behind the change is that the record company thought the original was too pedophiliac for the US audience. Silly.

Luckily for me, a trip to Australia in high school coincided with my desire to purchase the last U2 album I didn’t yet own – Boy – so I own the international “real” version.

This album is both miles away from modern U2 and similar all at once. Lots of the guitar licks obviously have an early version of the signature “U2 sound”. However, the songs are punkier and less anthemic and funky than later U2. After I got familiar with Joy Division‘s catalog I could really hear their influence in early U2, especially the bass lines.

Thematically the lyrics touch on growing up and aging but not wanting to leave childhood behind:

“A boy tries hard to be a man”

“In the shadow, boy meets man”

“Into the heart, into the heart of a child, I can’t go back”

“A picture in gray, Dorian Gray”

“Boy, stupid boy, Don’t sit at the table, Until you’re able to.”

Boy is an album unashamed to be written and performed by 20 year olds, which, in a modern world so full of adults writing lyrics for teenagers, is refreshing.

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Live 1964

29 05 2010

Listened: Thursday May 27

It’s handy for this project that the first 3 alphabetically-organized Bob albums I own are from very different Bob periods.

As is clear from the cover, Live 1964 is still very young Bob – he’s starting to shift into his psychedelic poetry period (Tambourine Man) but clearly the crowd at this show loves his protest singer period.

Immediately evident from this recording is how energetic and strong his voice is – even a couple of years later he became a lot more mumbly and the electrified instrumentation became closer to level with the vocal. Also notable is the frequent interaction with the audience (though I think he might be stoned at this show – he does a lot of giggling).

I’m still lacking Another Side of Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A’Changin’ on CD, so I particularly enjoyed being introduced to I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met), With God On His Side, All I Really Wan’t To Do, and Spanish Harlem Incident via this album.

It’s also fun to hear Bob and Joan Baez together at the height of their 60s fame. I’d never heard her song Silver Dagger, despite it being the big hit early in her career, and I really enjoy it. Though I must note I’ve never thought the two of them sing well together at all. Not sure if it’s dueling egos, two clashing styles, or relationship issues, but certainly at this period they can’t keep it together. Later on it’s somewhat improved (upcoming in Live 1975) but still not great. It’s odd that this is the case, since they are so closely associated in people’s minds and Joan did some great solo versions of Bob songs.

Kalyanji and Anandji V. Shay – Bombay The Hard Way: Guns, Cars and Sitars

29 05 2010

Listened: Thursday May 27

Bombay The Hard Way is a great album and it was a big indie hit back when it came out in 1998. Produced by Dan the Automator, it’s composed of mixes of old, mostly instrumental music from 70s Bollywood gangster or spy movies. There’s dialogue too, some in English, some in Hindi. I’ve never tested this as party music, but I think it would work well. It’s energetic, but still could be great funky background music.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – The Blue Trees

28 05 2010

Listened: Wednesday May 26

The Blue Trees is one of those albums I’ve had for years and haven’t listened to that much. By this point GZM were mostly out of their freaky, tripped-out period and this long EP is a lot of lovely guitar work, strings, and sweet singing. In addition to being freaky, they are also very talented musicians!

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

28 05 2010

Listened: Wednesday May 26

Doing this project has made me notice how similar the Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks album covers are in terms of composition – a headshot of big-hair Bob – even though they’re 9 years and a few artistic universes apart.

By Blood, Bob is less experimental-sounding than Blonde on Blonde, which is neither good nor bad, but the songs are a lot more clear in story, relaxing, and beautiful for the most part. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go is like a lovely poem, Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts is an exciting detective story, and Idiot Wind is enjoyable caustic. As a whole, the album is really cohesive.

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

28 05 2010

Listened: Wednesday May 26

I have to start this review by saying I’ve always hated Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (aka Everybody Must Get Stoned). Potheads are the only ones who like it… it’s not a great song and it’s a crappy song to lead the album with!

I do love Visions of Johanna, One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later), I Want You, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Just Like A Woman, and 4th Time Around.

I particularly love the lyrics from the latter song:

I stood there and hummed
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come
And she buttoned her boot
And straightened her suit
Then she said, “Don’t get cute”
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum

To me this always makes me think of a guy asking a girl what gets her off, she clams up and is too prudish to talk about it, so he gives up on being generous and suggests that they get down to the business of vanilla intercourse instead (gum = condom).

Otherwise, Blonde on Blonde is a lot of surrealistic rapping that’s fun to sing along to, but you really don’t know what the heck is being talked about most of the time. But that’s OK. Also I imagine the cover was quite shocking at the time – not a very complementary picture that’s also out of focus, which seems like a drug reference. I also had never noticed before – he’s almost wearing a keffiyeh scarf (a modern-day hipster accessory if there ever was one). Ahead of his time!

The Black Keys – The Big Come Up

28 05 2010

Listened: Wednesday May 26

The Black Keys are another band my coworker Jim recently introduced me to. They’re dirty, bluesy rock and occasionally the guitars sound like Creedence. I love the artificial ring wear on the album cover.

The Beta Band – The Beta Band

27 05 2010

Listened: Wednesday May 26

I haven’t listened to The Beta Band’s self-titled album in years. As I sat down to write this entry, I remembered that you could tell the total Brit-nerds in America by how they pronounced the band’s name. It should be pronounced the way British people say Beta. Beeeeeeta. The Americans who said it this way were the people who knew their stuff.

This album is a strange amalgam of songs – rapping, very Pink-Floydian soundscapes, and something Wikipedia calls “folktronica”, which is “a blend of folk, electronic, rock, trip hop, and experimental jamming.”

I liked being reminded of the songs, but I doubt I will listen to it much. It seems dated to me.