Monday, May 27, 2013

Galaxie 500 - "Peel Sessions" (LP Review)

I think I've run out of words to describe how much I love Galaxie 500, the hazy, dreamy, nearly-shoegazing Boston band whose existence completely overlapped with my college years (1987-1991).   Unfortunately, this short career left us with only three studio LPs and a posthumously extended discography, most of which I would recommend only to hard-core fans such as myself. 

But that's not true for the 2005 LP "Peel Sessions", which collects two, four song sessions from 1989 and 1990 for the legendary BBC Radio 1 show by John Peel.  This live-in-the-studio LP has excellent sound quality (unlike the live LP "Copenhagen"), offers three "new" cover songs not available on other LPs, and subtly different arrangements of some of their classic songs.  I don't think these sessions were available previous to be released in 2005.  Peel Sessions are an interesting format: you have four songs (or about ~20 minutes) to showcase yourself, and this limited amount of time forces you to economically pick representative songs.  On the other hand, if you just do your "greatest hits" then haven't offered the audience something new.  Galaxie 500 understood this: notice how their quintessential song, "Tugboat", does not appear?

The real highlight here are the three "new" songs.  Galaxie 500 always had a tradition of showing how smart they were with their meticulous selection of covers.  Of course their standard Jonathan Richmond cover "Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste" is present (I think few would argue that Galaxie 500 now owns this song, not Richmond), but they also turn in inspired interpretations of "Submission" (Sex Pistols), "Final Day" (Young Marble Giants), and "Moonshot" (Buffy Sainte-Marie).  Sure you've heard of the Pistols, but "Submission" is an inspired choice; YMG was influential but not famous, and ask your hippie parents about BSM (the Pistols *and* Buffy Sainte-Marie?!  genius.).

I'm going to break with the standard LP review format and just list all eight tracks and claim them all as "standouts" (and obviously there are no tracks to skip).  The first four are from the October 1990 session and the last four are from the September 1989 session:
  1. Submission
  2. Final Day
  3. When Will You Come Home
  4. Moonshot
  5. Flowers
  6. Blue Thunder
  7. Decomposing Trees
  8. Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste
Bonus links to the original versions:
Final score: 9/10.  While there are only three "new" songs, this is an LP I can easily recommend to those not already familiar with Galaxie 500. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Bloody Valentine - "Loveless" (LP Review)

I had been resisting reviewing "Loveless" because it is just too obvious: there are innumerable reviews proclaiming the excellence of this LP (e.g., Allmusic, Wired, Pitchfork, Drowned In Sound).   But with My Bloody Valentine's out-of-print EPs collected on "EPs 1988-1991" and *finally* a new LP,  "m b v", I've decided to include it.

I first heard this LP in 1999, ordering it at the same time as DJ Shadow's seminal "Endtroducing.....".  They don't sound anything alike, but they are similar in that once you listen to them, you'll never hear music the same way again. 

Rather than throw hundreds of words at this LP, the eccentricities and innovations of Kevin Shields, or how the cover art matches the sound, instead I'll offer my initial, visceral reaction from 1999:

Dying Swan Music*.

Yes, that's the best I can do, courtesy of Tennyson:
But anon her awful jubilant voice,
With a music strange and manifold,
Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold;
As when a mighty people rejoice
Standout songs:  All, and it really should be consumed as a whole, start to finish (Youtube playlist).  If forced to pick three, I'd go with: "To Here Knows When", "Sometimes", "Blown A Wish"

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final Score: In addition to "10/10", this LP earns my very rare "beyond music" label; "music" is just too limiting a concept to describe it.

Bonus links: official videos for "To Here Knows When" and "Soon" (radio edit).  I'm pretty sure most of the "official" videos for MBV are the same footage used over and over again, but how else would you do it?

* = Listen to "Touched", a sort of intro to "To Here Knows When", and then get back to me when you come up with a better description.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sonic Youth - "Diamond Sea" (forgotten song)

"Time takes its crazy toll
And how does your mirror grow
You better watch yourself when you jump into it
Cause the mirror's gonna steal your soul"
I'm not sure how I've managed to blog this long and not really mention Sonic Youth.  I've been reading "Our Band Could Be Your Life", and this has caused me to go back and rip all the various SY cds that I somehow had failed to in the past.  I have a significant portion of their considerable discography, and while I'd love to tell you that my favorite song is "Teen Age Riot", "Kill Yr. Idols", "Death Valley '69", or something like that, the truth is my favorite SY song is actually "Diamond Sea", the first single from their 1995 LP "Washing Machine". 

I was surprisingly disappointed when in late 2011 it was announced that after 27 years of marriage SY founders Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were splitting up, effectively ending the 30 year career of Sonic Youth in the process.  Individually, Thurston & Kim are the epitome of cool and their long-standing rock-n-roll marriage was even cooler.  Less than a month ago, Kim revealed in an interview that the marriage ended because of Thurston's mid-life crisis.  Shortly thereafter the identity of the "other woman" was revealed, and then the inevitable back-lash for "shaming" the woman while more or less giving Thurston a pass.  I guess marriages break up every day, but most don't claim the careers of seminal bands like Sonic Youth.
"Time takes its crazy toll
Mirror fallin' off the wall
You better look out for the looking glass girl
Cause she's gonna take you for a fall"
"Diamond Sea": 5:45 radio edit, 19:36 LP version, 20 min live version (1996)

Although I'm ashamed to admit it, I frequently prefer the radio edit to the freak-out LP version.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Slayer - "Haunting The Chapel" (LP Review)

I had been meaning to review this one for a while, but once again a recent death has influenced the order of reviews:  Jeff Hanneman, a founding member of the seminal thrash metal band Slayer, died on May 2.   While their contemporaries Metallica achieved more commercial success, Slayer arguably has the stronger, more consistent discography

While Slayer's 1983 debut LP "Show No Mercy" was a strong, heavy LP, it was their 1984 three song EP "Haunting the Chapel" that really defined the genre.  Especially influential was the double bass work of drummer Dave Lombardo, after this EP came out if you didn't have that double bass sound, you weren't a serious thrash band.  Of the three songs, the one you really must listen to is "Chemical Warfare".  Nearly 30 years after it was released this is still one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard.

Jeff Hanneman shared lead guitar duties with Kerry King as well as writing or co-writing most of their songs.  Although he had been sidelined for a few years due to a spider bite, everyone believed the worst was behind him and he was writing new material for their next LP.  Slayer had always been one of the more stable bands (with only Dave Lombardo leaving and rejoining a few times), so it will be interesting to see if they carry on without Jeff.

Standout songs: "Chemical Warfare", "Haunting The Chapel", "Captor of Sin"

Skip'em songs: none

Final Score: 10/10.  This EP points the way to "Hell Awaits" and "Reign in Blood", as well as reminding me of my tape trading days w/ Scott Kinkade et al.  Honorable mention to the late Bob Muldowney, publisher of Kick*Ass Monthly, for describing the importance of this EP back in the day.