The Velvet Underground – Peel Slowly and See

21 12 2010

Listened: Tuesday December 8, Wednesday December 9

I remember my mom buying me Peel Slowly and See upon request at Vinyl Solution as a birthday gift. I was turning 17.

Why did a teenager in 1996 want a VU box set? I had known of the band for several years, due to voracious Rolling Stone consumption. But it was chance that allowed me to love them. My friend Audrey’s older sister had abandoned a cassette of VU and Nico when she went off to college. I found it and asked if I could borrow it, since I knew it was supposed to be good. I remember driving away from her house in my Jetta as the first notes of Sunday Morning bleeped out of the speakers. The love affair happened quickly; I was immediately taken with it and it didn’t leave my car for a long time.

As with the Joy Division box I reviewed earlier, listening to 5 discs of VU madness for the purposes of the project is actually quite a haul. The first disc of demos is a slog. It’s interesting to hear the progression of a song’s development, but I think these days box set editors would have had their way with it and wouldn’t have filled a whole disc.

I would say I’ve listened to VU & Nico the most; it’s an amazing album. The sense of chaos and drama is presented so beautifully. Lou Reed is not a great singer, and Nico is an acquired taste, but it works. All Tomorrow’s Parties, I’ll Be Your Mirror, and Heroin are my favorite tracks. The live bonus track Melody Laughter is also pretty amazing. A cacophony of noise eventually evolves into a full fledged song. The patience it takes to do that over the course of 10 minutes is underrated.

I’ve spent some time with White Light/White Heat as well. The Gift and Lady Godiva’s Operation are interesting experiments in context, and I do listen to them when they come on, but I don’t think they’ve held up all that well. The really explosive and impressive track has to be Sister Ray, though. I was reminded to go back and enjoy it a couple years ago when I saw Brick in the theater. I loved the film, and then when the movie ended with a bang rather than a fade-out, the next sound I heard as the credits started to roll was Sister Ray. It was brilliantly used in the context of the movie, and is excellent for the credit roll since it’s so long. The funny thing is that I never feel like it’s too long, even though it’s an astounding 17 minutes. I just let it wash over me and sing along.

More recently, I’ve often listened to their third album, The Velvet Underground. Except for the odd experiment The Murder Mystery, this album is very poppy, accessible, and almost gospel in nature (See I’m Set Free, Jesus, Beginning To See The Light). I love Some Kinda Love, Pale Blue Eyes, and Foggy Notion as well. I can forget I’m listening to the Velvet Underground sometimes.

Speaking of poppy, their fourth album Loaded betrays its 1970 birth. It sounds very 60s to me, with all the ba-bas and such. I haven’t listened to it as much as I should have.

Needless to say, I’m really glad I found that abandoned tape that day. It changed my musical life for the better.

Underworld – Pearl’s Girl

9 12 2010

Listened: Wednesday November 10

What more can I say about Underworld? Pearl’s Girl gives me bang for my single-purchasing buck – tons of different music and mixes to keep me grooving to my heart’s content!

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Patio

6 12 2010

Listened: Wednesday November 10

Patio is the sound of a very young band rocking out in a garage (I would guess several of the members of the band were something like 15-17 here). As such, it’s not super listenable a whole, though it has its moments. Patio is an album I collected just to be a collector – I doubt there are very many copies extant in the United States.

The most hilarious part is at the end of Sally Webster when someone’s dad is captured on tape exasperatedly telling the youngsters this is their “last warning” and “I’m very serious” about their volume level. From his voice, I sort of imagine a parent who was once illicitly rocking out in his own garage.

The Beatles – Past Masters Volume 2

6 12 2010

Listened: Wednesday November 10

Past Masters Vol 2 is a little heavy on the Paul songs, which only makes sense since he leans a little more pop in his songs. However, it contains one of my favorite John songs: Rain. I love the complex sonic waves that wash over me.

I don’t think many people share the sentiment, but I also love The Ballad of John and Yoko, if only for the great chorus of “Christ! You know it ain’t easy”. Only John Lennon would think of such a wonderfully blasphemous chorus.

The Beatles – Past Masters Volume 1

6 12 2010

Listened: Wednesday November 10

Past Masters Vol 1 throws me into the insanity of the early Beatles hits. The magic and simplicity of those songs comes through loud and clear. I love Yes It Is in particular; I’m surprised to see wikipedia note that John thought was a poor attempt on his part. It’s a great song!

The fact that they recorded I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You in German is particularly amusing. I suspect their pronunciation isn’t the best.

Coldplay – Parachutes

6 12 2010

Listened: Wednesday November 10

I’m probably going to date myself and confuse youngsters by saying that I remember buying Parachutes at a Blockbuster Music with a gift certificate my half-brother had given me. First of all, Blockbuster Music was relatively short-lived as a store in the first place, second of all, I rarely shopped there because it was expensive and sucky, thirdly, wow, shopping for albums at a store, and finally, gift certificates vs gift cards? Omigawd!

Coldplay is also the one of the few bands I remember seeing in their infancy who went on to become huge and successful in the mainstream. Most of the new bands I like either disappear or remain mostly cult-favorites. I remember seeing Coldplay at the Fillmore on their first US tour in 2001. Chris Martin was relatively shy and unsure how to behave onstage.

I was also on TV as a result of this show – for a short time on KBHK they were showing recent Fillmore shows late on Friday or Saturday night. I was at the front of the crowd right by the stage, so I made it on camera. Serendipitously, a friend happen to see me on that show and called me to ask if I had been there. Thanks to the internet I’ve recently found a portion of the show online (I’m at 5:43ish in the video).

When Coldplay returned later that year, they were already Warfield-sized. Then the next year, Greek Theater-sized. At that point, this was the biggest show they had ever played, and the band were clearly awe-struck. Chris had gotten a lot more comfortable with performing too; each show upped the ante of awesomeness. The Greek show is one of the best I’ve ever been to at that venue.

When they came back in 2003, they were Shoreline-sized. I enjoyed that show and their showmanship had expanded well enough to do a good  job in a venue that size, but that’s about my cutoff for show size and cost. Every time they’ve visited since I haven’t seen them. A sports venue hosting their show is just too big and too costly.

I do still enjoy their albums. They’ve matured well.

Jamie T – Panic Prevention

2 12 2010

Listened: Tuesday November 9

I bought Panic Prevention because the roar from across the pond about what a good album it is could not be ignored. When I first listened to it, the kind of bizarre, bratty, yelpy singing weirded me out and I put it in the “Hmmm” pile. The disorganized look of the album cover is exactly how it felt.

The project has forced me to listen to it several times, and now I think I “get it” more. It’s certainly still bizarre, bratty, and yelpy, but it grew on me. The tone reminds me of The Streets, the brilliant cheeky brattiness reminds me of Lily Allen (who guests on one of his songs), and the fact that I get it now makes me think I should go listen to Micachu again (a quite similar artist whose album elicited a similar initial response from me, and caused me not to buy it, though I did buy the one standout track, Golden Phone).

If you’d like to dip your toe in the Jamie T water, check out Shelia, Salvador, So Lonely Was The Ballad, and Northern Line (“actin like a motherfucker, drunk, fallin’ asleep on the northern line”).