Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Don't call it a comeback...

...I've been here for years.

Seriously though, I've been on hiatus since Saturday because I've been suffering with the absolute mother of all colds. Sure, this has led to time off work and time that could have been spent updating this fucker, but, to be completely honest, I plain haven't felt like it.

The blogging bug prevails though and tonight has me itching to get some stuff off my chest, starting with my pick for single of the week. By the way, today's mp3s are brought to you by the lovely people at Zshare, because I can't seem to get YSI to work.

Roxy Music - Roxy Music Remix #01 (Virgin)

What may at first seem like a cynical cash-in, turns out to be a pretty darned good idea after all. The details of the proposed forthcoming remix album are a little sketchy at the moment, but the good people at Virgin have given us a quite nifty little taster of what's to come here. Frank Tope and Dean Rudland have given 'Angel Eyes' a disco-skewing re-edit, while Kaos takes the same track and takes it on a more cosmic adventure. Over on the flip meanwhile, Tiefschwarz give 'Rain Rain Rain' a dark, techy do-over, while M.A.N.D.Y. and Booka Shade take 'The Thrill Of It All' and turn it into a prime, Get Physical classic-in-waiting, albeit one with a Bryan Ferry vocal. Cynical it may well be, but you do get the sense that the remixers assembled here aren't only in it for the money. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long before the album, where the likes of Lindstrom & Prins Thomas, Rub 'N' Tug, The DFA and Hell are all lined up to give Ferry, Manzanera & co. the dancefloor roughing-up that they deserve.

I'm a bit of a Pavement fan, as anyone who has been reading this blog closely for quite a while now would probably have figured out, but Wowee Zowee is not my favourite album of theirs. That title has always and will always be held by Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but the older I get, the more appealing Wowee Zowee gets. I'd accredit this to the album's sprawl and the fact that the more you listen, the more you get from it, but it probably has more to do with the fact that, sometimes, when it comes to music, I'm unbelieveably attention deficient.

Wowee Zowee is such a willingly ramshackle collection of songs, with so many different ideas flying around, that if the song that's playing at any one time isn't holding your attention, you can guarantee that the next track will chuck you a sonic curveball, direct to your head, as if to say, "Come on! Keep up!". Malkmus, Spiral Stairs and the rest could easily have coasted after the moderate commercial success of Crooked Rain... but that would have been too easy for them. Also, the prospect of being the next indie-rock poster boys scared them to the point of commercial suicide, so it was pretty much a given from day one that the follow-up was going to alienate a few people along the way.

Covering eighteen tracks and running the gamut from grunge-punk ('Flux=Rad'), tender ballads (the opening 'We Dance'), country-rock ('Father To A Sister Of Thought'), frazzled, psych-blues ('Half A Canyon') and arch, novelty-skirting joke tracks ('Brinx Job'), Wowee Zowee does kind of have something for everyone. Despite the fact that it isn't my favourite record of theirs, it does contain a few of my all-time fave Pavement raves. Take 'Grounded' for instance; a gloriously understated, unassuming epic, this song fills stadiums in a parallel dimension somewhere, with that dimension's inhabitants basking in Malkmus' dazzling wordplay, singing along with the epithets about contract bridge, sterile gauzes and crystal ice picks. Sure beats the usual "I love you" platitudes, don't you think?

That's before we come to the likes of the Pavement-in-a-nutshell, 'Rattled By The Rush' (which isn't to say that it's rote or by-the-numbers, just that it encompasses pretty much all that is great about the band), the loveably shonky, Spiral Stairs-fronted, 'Kennel District', the schizoid acid-pop of 'Best Friend's Arm' and so on. Sure, there are tracks that don't quite cut it for me ('Extradition', 'Pueblo', 'Grave Architecture' to name three), but the amount of great stuff here leaves you with the impression that Wowee Zowee is a bit of an embarrassment of riches.

Well those riches have just got a little more embarrassing with the release of the Sordid Sentinels Special Edition; a two-disc set that compiles off-cuts, b-sides, live and session tracks to give you even more of an indication as to what Pavement's mindset was like at the time. Of the b-sides and such, 'Give It A Day', 'Mussle Rock' and 'I Love Perth' could have all easily made the cut, while some of the BBC sessions and live takes display a band at the peak of their powers who aren't quite sure what to do with that power.

This was Pavement's last great record though, with the next two paling in comparison to what went before (that said, below-par Pavement is still better than most bands firing on all cylinders), so even though the extras available here range wildly between essential and superfluous, this is still a must for all completists and casuals alike.

Pavement - Rattled By The Rush (mp3)

Pavement - Give It A Day (mp3)

Pavement - Unfair (Live In Australia) (mp3)

Now, it's time for something of a confession. Talking Heads are my favourite band of all time (not the confession). When I say that, I mean that I was fucking weaned on their stuff, I didn't just get into them because some hack said that Franz Ferdinand or The Rapture sounded a bit like them. My love for Talking Heads is a pretty much life-long and definitely enduring one. I was probably about five or six years old when I was first introduced to their music by my brother and sisters, alongside such other seminal groups like Pixies, Love, The Smiths, New Order, Happy Mondays etc. Yes, I had a bit of an early start when it came to getting into music, but the one band from that period that I never, ever tire of are Talking Heads.

So here comes the confession; I only recently got the reissue of The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads that was released in 2004. I'm pretty sure I have it on vinyl somewhere (acquired due to the fact that my brother no longer has a turntable), but the CD eluded me until last week. I have no real explanation why, it was just one of those things that I never got around to doing until last week. Well, I don't know how I lived without it. Maybe people think that you only really need one Talking Heads live album in your collection, but they're wrong. Both this and Stop Making Sense are totally essential purchases and, I think, a good starting point for those who inexplicably remain oblivious to TH's charms.

While SMS contains some of my favourite versions of certain songs ('Psycho Killer', 'Found A Job' to name but two), The Name Of This Band... covers the period when the Heads were at their most productive (1977-1981) and shows two different sides to this ever-changing band. The first disc covers their raw beginnings, with just the core four of David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz really cooking with gas and sounding so metronomically, methodically in step with each other. The second disc, however, displays Talking Heads at the point where they started to branch out and experiment with new sounds. More disco elements were creeping in at this point, no more so than on the badass version of 'Born Under Punches' included here. More tellingly though, this was the point at which Byrne started to look further afield than America for inspiration, specifically to Africa, with the likes of 'The Great Curve' and 'I Zimbra'.

While the first disc shows a side of the Talking Heads live experience that is less-documented (coming, as it did, before the advent of the promo video, something that Talking Heads used to their advantage, and also before the band went huge), it's the second one that I'm more drawn to. This is the period of Talking Heads' evolution that I find more interesting and, more importantly, more thrilling. When they expanded the band to include the likes of Nona Hendryx, Adrian Belew and the venerable Bernie Worrell, they created an energetic, never-bettered sense of magic that I just wish I was old enough to actually see at the time. I've seen David Byrne solo since, but it's not the same. Maybe there's an unshakeable sense of wistfulness that leads me to prefer the later period covered here, but just take one listen to the second disc here and take one look at the Stop Making Sense film and tell me that it wouldn't have been an absolute blast.

The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads is a document of the best band of that era, nay, of all time (may as well be partisan) that will bring bittersweet regret to those too young or too ignorant to catch them at the time and a warm sense of nostalgia to those that did. Perfect.

Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (Live) (mp3)

Talking Heads - Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Live) (mp3)

Ladies love cool James



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