Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hawkwind - "Silver Machine" (forgotten song)

Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister died this week at the age of 70.  If you don't know what Lemmy means to metal, or just rock in general, then I'm not going to be able to explain it to you.  Exhibit A: NPR did a story about his passing.  NPR.  Think about that.  Words like "icon", "legend",  and "pioneer" are often casually tossed around, but in this case they're appropriate.  Quoting from a Guardian story from this summer:
Lemmy is as much a collection of myths and legends as a man. In the popular imagination, he’s made up of equal parts Jack Daniel’s, amphetamine sulphate, Nazi memorabilia and extreme-velocity noise. The myths and legends cloak him as surely as the black shirt, the black jeans, the custom-made boots, the cowboy hat with its “Death or Glory” insignia and the Iron Cross around his neck.
Of course, Lemmy is best known as the vocalist & bassist -- and only permanent member -- for Motorhead.  Motorhead, of course, is the seminal band that first combined outlaw biker imagery with a punk style / ethos & metal heaviness, although Lemmy always insisted they were simply a "rock-n-roll band".  Furthermore, he was innovative in that he played bass like it was a lead instrument and not rhythm.  But before there was Motorhead, there was Hawkwind -- the seminal space rock group, featuring fluid membership, Michael Moorcock inspired imagery & lyrics, and nearly limitless Spinal Tap-esque cliches (including one of the first appearances of the heavy metal umlaut). 

I could memorialize Lemmy with any of numerous excellent Motorhead songs, but instead I'll choose Hawkwind's 1972 single, "Silver Machine", which he didn't even write but I believe was the first song on which he sang lead (he was not the primary vocalist for Hawkwind), and turned out to be Hawkwind's only "hit" song.  Although Lemmy would not be fired from Hawkwind for another three years, this is probably the song that set him on the path from "band member" to "band leader". 

I believe this video is the one shown on BBC's Top of the Pops in 1972 (instead of having the band in the studio lip syncing).  It features Lemmy in his pre-Motorhead, all black garb.  The sound is early-70s groovy, the studio version is badly synced with the concert footage, which features bubbles, a flautist (!) and, of course, a dancer.  You can't make this stuff up.  Despite (because of?) all that, the song rawks and I love it.  Danette hates it, for all of the same reasons listed above, though she does like Motorhead in general.

A month ago, The Atlantic had an article featuring Lemmy and entitled "Twilight of the Headbangers: How long can the legends of heavy metal keep on rocking?".  Not long enough, though I think we have to count ourselves lucky that he made it to 70.

Hawkwind - "Silver Machine"

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Waxahatchee - "Cerulean Salt" (LP Review)

Just over a year ago I reviewed "American Weekend", the debut LP from Waxahatchee.  Her second LP "Cerulean Salt" (2013) finds her backed by a "real band" (actually members shared with her sister's band, Swearin'). 

Whereas "American Weekend" was a solo, lo-fi, bedroom recording masterpiece, "Cerulean Salt" doesn't try to duplicate that success.  The songs are still sparse and minimally produced, but are enriched by the fuller sound afforded by the presence of band members.  Some of them even downright rawk -- such as "Coast to Coast" and especially "Misery Over Dispute".  And while the comparison to Liz Phair continues (exhibit A: "Brother Bryan" vs. "Girls! Girls! Girls!"; Exhibit B: "Dixie Cups and Jars" vs. "Go West"), a more thematic comparison would be to Bruce Springsteen in that the glossy, upbeat songs hide some pretty dark lyrics.  Almost any song would do, but it's hard to beat "Dixie Cups and Jars":
I'm not a whipper in the wind
Or solace laying at the bottom of a bottle
Or your thick skin
Escape yells both our names out loud
We run like hell, I'll write a tragic epilogue and you'll act it out

I watched your dad give you away
I watched him drink the bitter taste in his exertion away
Make-up sits on your face like tar
The champagne flutes poorly engineered
Employ dixie cups and jars
A more eloquent LP review is available at Pitchfork.  I will say that while it doesn't speak to me personally like "American Weekend", "Cerulean Salt" is arguably a better all around LP. 

Standout songs: "Dixie Cups and Jars" (live), "Brother Bryan" (live), "Coast to Coast" (live) (live w/ Mish Way), "Tangled Envisioning" (live), "Misery Over Dispute" (live), "Lively" (live), "Swan Dive" (live),

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 9/10.