Sunday, June 28, 2015

Connan Mockasin - "Caramel" (LP Review)

I can only describe Connan Mockasin's 2013 LP "Caramel" as the soundtrack for Prince's fevered, imp-infested, slow-motion, pornographic, Shaun-Cassidy-trapped-in-Twin-Peaks, hallucination-within-a-dream.

Herbert turned me onto this LP about a year ago.  The professional reviews for this LP are mixed, and mostly because of its break with his more conventional prior material (of which I'm unfamiliar). I won't claim I completely understand this LP, but there is something weirdly beautiful happening here -- you just have to listen and decide if it works for you. 

I'm going to break from my regular LP review format and just list the 11 songs since although they're distinct, they're so inter-related that you really shouldn't separate them out.
  1. "Nothing Lasts Forever"        
  2. "Caramel"      
  3. "I'm the Man, That Will Find You" (official video)
  4. "Do I Make You Feel Shy?" (official video)
  5. "Why Are You Crying?"          
  6. "It's Your Body 1" (live)     
  7. "It's Your Body 2"     
  8. "It's Your Body 3"     
  9. "It's Your Body 4"     
  10. "It's Your Body 5"     
  11. "I Wanna Roll with You" (live)
The official & live videos, while sufficiently surreal, somehow aren't surreal enough compare to the visions the songs conjure in my mind. 

Final score: 7/10.  It grows on you; I reserve the right to raise this in the future.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Minutemen - "Double Nickels on the Dime" (LP review)

Why don't I like this more than I do?  On paper, the Minutemen and their double LP "Double Nickels on the Dime" combine everything I like: an 80s punk trio on SST Records, clever, satirical, humorous, biting political commentary, a complete embrace of DIY, genre-bending, sly references to Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys / California Car Culture, Husker Du, and numerous other influences.  Even the book that I've referenced numerous times in this blog, "Our Band Could Be Your Life", takes its title from their song "History Lesson - Part II".  This LP is on nearly every "best of" list made, and is beloved by many artists that I love/respect (e.g., Sonic Youth, Black Flag). 

So I struggle to capture why this LP doesn't mean more to me.  Part of it surely D. Boon's guitar style: he's good (at the risk of damning with faint praise, they're all surprisingly good for a punk band), but the clean yet thin production and the rockabilly & funk influences leaves too much negative space for my taste.  The LP was produced by Ethan James, rather than SST's normal in house producer, Spot, who made things muddy but heavy.  Granted, I found out about this LP much later in life, but it still doesn't speak to me in the same way of, say, Mission of Burma.  Also, as a teenager I'm pretty sure I would not have found this LP heavy enough since my preferences were more in line with Husker Du.

Having said all that, there are no bad songs on this LP and although songs like "It's Expected I'm Gone" have too much of the aforementioned negative space, I can't call them bad.  And some of the songs are quite good, with my favorite being the precious "History Lesson - Part II", whose autobiographical lyrics capture the friendship between D. Boon and Mike Watt as the core element of the band, a band that provided a path out of an otherwise dead-end, blue collar life:
our band could be your life
real names'd be proof
me and mike watt played for years
punk rock changed our lives

we learned punk rock in hollywood
drove up from pedro
we were fucking corndogs
we'd go drink and pogo

mr. narrator
this is bob dylan to me
my story could be his songs
i'm his soldier child

our band is scientist rock
but i was e. bloom and richard hell,
joe strummer, and john doe
me and mike watt, playing guitar
This song is made even more poignant because D. Boon died in an automobile accident in 1985, effectively ending the band (though drummer George Hurley and Mike Watt would continue for a while as Firehose) and leaving this song as the band's eulogy.  

Another positive thing for the band is, that unlike many of their punk contemporaries, they were respectful and knowledgeable of their influences.  In addition to the name checks provided in the lyrics above, they also did non-ironic covers of CCR, Van Halen, and Steely Dan (even though the LP name is a shot at Sammy Hagar). 

Standout songs: "History Lesson - Part II" (live), "Corona" (live), "This Ain't No Picnic", "Take 5, D.", "Dr. Wu", "The Big Foist"

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: I'm sticking with a 6/10, but you should realize that most people other than me would give this a 10/10. 

Bonus links: