Friday, August 10, 2007


Marquee Moon Television

In the heyday of post-punk and pre art rock of New Wave there were a handful of bands making music that mattered, the rest were overdubbing synthesizers and buying hairspray by the truckload. These visionaries formed a cult of sorts and they held their chapter meetings the in sacred CBGB in NYC. Alongside Talking Heads, The Ramones and Blondie, Television was creating a sound that would surpass the next generation of music alluding its due respect and understanding until the 80’s had all but passed and grunge cast its sulky shadow. Marquee Moon is filled with epic songs that believe in the power of real chord progression, the coolness of punk and the smarts of underground New York. Although never reaching the commercial success of it contemporaries, Television masterminded the transition from punk to pop, without ever writing a pop song. Named among Rolling Stone’s Greatest albums ever made, Marquee Moon is mostly unheard by those outside ‘the know.’ Modern groups such as My Morning Jacket pay homage to the band, but it is a crime that these fellas aren’t heard more.

Standout tracks: Marquee Moon (some of the most powerful, yet simplistic guitar work recorded), Venus and Friction

An Acoustic Evening David Byrne and Richard Thompson

I really cannot recall how I stumbled across this recording and I have yet to find it again, which frustrates me to the nth degree as I have lost many of the tracks. Post Talking Heads, David Byrne began to explore even deeper into his quest of integrating World music into pop music. He spent time in Africa and Asia learning the basic sounds of the cultures, something that would later inspire Paul Simon to record one of the greatest albums ever in Graceland. When he returned home he spent most of his time with friend and creative accomplice Brian Eno creating a myriad of recordings for the likes of Twyla Twarp and the New Wave culture. But here we find Byrne stripped down of the worldly percussions and complex song arrangements. We find him in a comfortable setting with one of the more underrated guitar players to ever pick up the instruments, a man with an engrossing voice and penmanship of Townes Van Zant, Richard Thompson. The album highlights recordings from both artisits, creating a unique blend of styles that taken out of the context of this recording would seem unfitting. Songs like Psycho Killer sound amazing taken down a time without any additional backup than a acoustic guitar and the voice of a legend. Despite my obsession with David Byrne and Heads (my favorite concert) I have to admit Richard Thompson steals the show and does so with a tune I had only previously heard from The Del McCoury Band in 1952 Vicent Black Lightning, aside from U2’s One, this is the only love song that actually plays out with sincerity and anguish.

Standout tracks: I Feel So Good, Road to Nowhere, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Sharpen Your Teeth Ugly Casanova

He was booed off stage more than once and most kids thought the band sucked, flooding the Modest Mouse fan club with requests to find a better opening band. The dark, mysterious folkster stayed the course and finished out the tour and even cut a record deal, which in retrospect shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering it was Issac Brock’s project band. How the lead singer for Modest Mouse could sneak on and off stage as the front man for Ugly Casanova and no one noticed is beyond me, but I love that he did it. Supported, as much on lore as actual quality of recording, Sharpen Teeth is not an amazing album, its really not even that great, but it is worth a listen. I don’t hold back when it comes to praising Modest Mouse, there is just something about their work that grabs me. Maybe it’s the quirky song structures, the mixing of acoustic and electric instrumentation playing side by side with two sets of blasting percussion. I guess I really do know what it is though, it’s Brock and the way he delivers his words in a cadence, talk-like manner and he does it with some of the finest lyrics ever written, something often overlooked with this band. Ugly is all that I love of the early Mouse material, yet completely different. Backed by another one of my favorite overlooked bands, Califone, Brock made this album completely on his terms. He played it on his terms and ultimately let it go on his on terms. Once the shroud was lifted and the identity of the band was revealed record labels went up in arms as Califone and Modest Mouse were on different labels and Ugly was on yet another label. The moniker was dropped and the project was let go, but lucky for us you can still find copies of the little gem.

Standout tracks: Parasites, Spilled Milk Factory and Ice on the Sheets

The Honest Hour Assembly of Dust

There was a time that I lived and breathed Jam Bands. The sounds were so new to me and the live presentation was irresistible. I have since grown away from the genre, but cannot deny its presence. In many ways it’s the growing separation from jam bands that makes this album so perfect to me. Known primarily among the ranks of alt-country, Assembly of Dust has an openness and free will to it that draws any listener in. Released as a full-fledged LP, Honest Hour is actually a live recording, giving it extra life and fervor. The songs grow on you over time and the stories told are relatable and comforting. “I took my car to a bar and I ordered myself whiskey; You know it’s my drink of choice and it fills me with charm. I know I’ve had too much when my head gets soft and dizzy. But if you ask my wife it does more good than harm.” Called 'country folk, tinged with jazz and philosophical lyrics,' AOD is just good listening music, and it suits a long day when you just need to unwind.

Standout tracks – Man With a Plan, Honest Hour and Bus Driver

Uberjam The John Scofield Band

Its so weird it’s awesome. It’s Medeski, Martin and Wood meets Lee 'Scratch' Perry and a whole heap of jazz funk tossed on top. This album is one I like to call a grower, as it took me a couple of years to really get what was going on, but its now among most every road trip I take. Amazing jazz instrumentation mixed with sick sampling and layering of the bizarre brings this album to a central location from all over the map. The songs take wild turns, pump in familiar riffs and dive into the thrill of improv jazz. There are better acid jazz recordings and even better John Scofield recordings, but this is truly an amazing album and denied its due respect. I’ve never seen Sco live, but I can only imagine what it would be like…funkin’ trippy man. Despite any preconceived connotations the style of music may bring, you owe it to yourself to give this album a try, it won’t disappoint.

Standout tracks – Acidhead, Jungle Fiction and Animal Farm

Enjoy the Heat...

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