July 16, 2002

Songs To Remember

[album covers]My long-overdue ramblings about those CDs I bought last week:

Enon - High Society (Touch & Go)
Had another one of those, "Damn, why did it take me so long to get into this band?" moments upon listening to a few tracks from this new Enon a couple of weeks ago. Like, Enon main man John Schmersal is a co-worker of mine (doh!) and I've heard other music he's done for projects here. I'd even seen them play a few songs from this Kaiju Monster Battel event in Brooklyn last month, but we got there late, missing most of their set (double-doh!).

Listening to this album is like standing in an ice cream parlor and trying to decide what flavor you want, then realizing you can get a spoonful of everything -- so much variety, all good. Because it veers from guitar-crunching hard rockers ("Old Dominion") to electronic, groove-filled ditties ("In This City") to classic pure pop ("Window Display") and combinations of one or more within the same song. Just really, really good songs with lots of hooks and sonic surprises. Yum.

Wire - Read & Burn 01 (Pink Flag)
Grindcore for post-punks! This EP is postively relentless, but oh so addicting, making me speed-walk to the subway whenever I dial it up on my iPod. And I say this as someone who was never into the blistering-assault school of punk rock. My favorite Wire album ain't Pink Flag, or even Chairs Missing -- not by a long shot. It's gotta be the weird and wonderful 154, which holds a permanent spot in my top five albums of all-time. Make it melodic, make it a little arty, and you got me good. So while all the songs on this have got a lock-groove mechanism, fierce minimalism and wall-of-noise aesthetic goin' on, there's melody, there's weird little stops and starts, and Colin Newman's vocal snarl on top of it all. Welcome back guys! Can't wait to see ya in the fall, even if you don't dip into the back catalog once.

Consonant - Consonant (Fenway Recordings)
While I have been raving about Consonant for the past couple of weeks, I know I haven't said too much about the music. It's tuneful and literate, kind of moody. I've read more than one article about how Clint Conley doesn't think too much of his own lyrics -- for the lyrics on this album, all but three songs are collaborations with poet Holly Anderson -- but I think he's a bit hard on himself. "Call It L---" is pretty brilliant, love how "technically" is used (I use that word too much myself, heh).

Anyway, what really grabs me is resulting delivery, where it's clear that the words have been wrapped around the melodies in a slightly off-center way, to get them to fit. Very reminiscent to me of Martin Phillips' wordplay in classic Chills songs like "Rain" (Consonant's "Post-Pathetic" is nearly as breathless.)

Interpol - Interpol EP (Matador)
Hey! What happened to "PDA"? Dang, is this the rock version or what? New, very assertive opening, propulsive drums. Kind of like it but... I think I prefer the (only slightly) mopier original version better. But of course, the original is what I've been listening to for the past two months, so I guess I'm a bit biased. Still love this band. Had also heard the dreamy "NYC" before -- free MP3 download available from the Matador Records site. Plus one new track that is good, but yeah, it's a b-side. (This is a CD single, but you know what I mean.) For $3.99 list price, you can't go wrong, is what I say.

Mahogany - The Dream of a Modern Day (Darla Records re-release)
I already had the original release of this from a couple of years back on Clairecords/Burnt Hair, a gorgeous slab of thick vinyl housed in a die-cut sleeve. Needed to get the CD, though, since I wasn't listening to the vinyl enough. Andrew Prinz of Mahogany shares my love of the bands and sounds that came forth from legendary British label Factory Records (and its slightly artier off-shoot, Les Disques Du Crepuscule) -- and it shows! But with a dreamy, reverb-y spin that stands alone as its own unique creation.

Scritti Politti - Songs to Remember (Virgin)
Someone's been posting early Scritti Politti to FipiLele recently, and it reminded me that I still hadn't picked up this re-release of their first album. It's not the earliest material, definitely Phase 2 Scritti, but there are some gems there, "Jacques Derrida" in particular, which manages a tricky feat, bouncing along a little groove while simultaneously evoking the pastoral pop pleasures of a decidedly un-groovy (but equally fabulous) band as The Lilac Time. (Yes, I know the Lilac Time came much after Scritti, and Stephen Duffy himself has managed to swing between careers as a glossy pop idol, grungy power-popper and folk-pop songsmith, so perhaps the comparison is not quite as far-fetched as I'd originally considered. But I digress..)

I remember getting this on cassette circa 1986 after having fallen in love with the pop song of the previous summer, radio hit "Perfect Way," then by extension the entire Cupid & Psyche '85 album (Phase Three Scritti, by this point). Whenever I discover a band I like, I've always made a point of going out and buying as many other records by them as possible. And since the early singles on Rough Trade and their own label were long, long unavailable -- and really, I hadn't yet discovered the art of used record shopping anyway, so this album was the only other thing available, released in 1982.

On first, and then repeated listens, I didn't know quite what to make of Songs to Remember. It was weird to my Top 40 radio-bred ears, so I don't think I listened to it much. (I'd later perservere to a much greater extent in the musical back-catalog explorations of Robyn Hitchcock ["Balloon Man" to Soft Boys - "Wading Through A Ventilator"] and Crowded House ["Something So Strong" to Split Enz's first album, Mental Notes]. While I could write a whole other entry about how fantastically divergent the musical selections for each of those example artists is, suffice it to say, they were definitely musical extremes to this teenage guitar pop fan.)

So I'm listening to this one again for the first time in a long, long while. Have only sampled a few tracks so far, but it's interesting to come back to these songs more than 15 years later.

And that is what I'm listening to right now. You?

Posted by nstop at July 16, 2002 12:50 PM


man, people always ask me what I'm listening to right when it's vaguely embarassing for me as a record geek to admit the answer.

er. it's mellon collie & the infinite sadness. um, disc 2. smashing pumpkins.

but I swear I was listening to consonant just yesterday. it's just that disc is at home and I'm at work.

Posted by: martin on July 16, 2002 01:20 PM

:: pointing and laughing ::

No, really... I am listening to the Love & Rockets right now (part of my high school flashback mix), so I'm being uncool right now too. Actually, I might be double-uncool since L&R are a bit goth.

:: waiting for snarky comment from jonmc ::

Posted by: nstop on July 16, 2002 03:23 PM

I dunno which is uncooler. cause I still listen to earth sun moon a lot. or more than most old records anyway. and that tones on tail rekkid... um, pop I think it's called... that's pretty good, though I haven't busted it out on the turntable in ages.

no, I take that back. smashing pumpkins is uncooler. I'm certain of it.

Posted by: martin on July 16, 2002 04:18 PM

I'm through dissing the goth folk as long as the rest of youse are done goofing on us headbangers...:)

at this exact moment I'm listening to "Careful with that Mic" by Clutch a funny-ass(and rockin') skewering of Fred Durst types...the next song on my playlist is "A Lover's Question" by Clyde McPhatter...Genre Whiplash!Genre Whiplash!

Metal and old school R&B, two terminally unhip genres in MeFi land..."unfashionable to the end..there's a belt buckle, yesterdays dreams"

bonus pints to whoever recognizes those lyrics...

Posted by: jonmc on July 16, 2002 11:04 PM

points..bonus points...I'm not buying beer or giving blood, doggone it

Posted by: jonmc on July 16, 2002 11:15 PM

that'd be jethro tull, bob. too old to rock 'n' roll, too young to die. I think actually that it's "death's head belt buckle, yesterday's dreams."

how do I collect my bonus points?

oh, and at the moment I'm listening to the power puff girls heroes & villains comp which has some minor genre whiplash built into it. but dammit that apples in stereo song kept getting stuck in my head every time I saw the little video on the cartoon network.

Posted by: martin on July 17, 2002 04:38 PM

Well, I'm glad someone was capable of rising to jonmc's challenge, because, music geek though I may be, I know diddly-squat about classic rock, classic R&B -- classic anything other than punk or new wave, which I'm sad to say is no longer as oxymoronic a concept as it should be.

Oh, and I'm listening to Morrissey right now. I'm such a wuss.

Posted by: nstop on July 17, 2002 05:54 PM

I think Martin knew the answer to that because I believe his sister was big into Jethro Tull....

Posted by: andrea on July 18, 2002 02:14 PM

yeh, my sister is insanely into jethro tull. but I responded to the challenge because I have that record and have listened to it enough to have memorized at least some of the lyrics.

what the hell? can't a person get some bonus points without being called out around here?

Posted by: martin on July 18, 2002 03:22 PM

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