an easy intro to the non-big star:
Friday, March 19, 2010
this fucking SUCKS ... vic chesnutt, mark linkous, and alex chilton in succession. unreal.
the sad thing about chilton is for most ears (and most big star fans), he's been dead since the early 70s. let's get real, big star broke up in 1974 (read, nixon). yeah, they got back together (in a bastard but GREAT form in '93), but unless you count that 70s show, they were invisible-- much as they were during their existence ... but i come not to bury alex, but to praise him.
i first caught word of him via peter buck and paul westerberg. i still remember the day i saw a used copy of the first big star album in plan 9 records and didn't buy it (needed money for an ill repute LP or something). i just facebooked my friend seth who had the first copy of radio city i ever saw ... but they weren't my entrance. big star's third was the ticket. this album changed my world. it's still my favorite record. you know, a testament to this band was this blog's top albums of the 70s list. all three big star albums made it.
once i got in to big star i started hitting the solo stuff, and i really dug it. there are some tough listens, but honestly. much of the work he did post-BS is just as viable. "like flies on sherbert" is amazing in its rawness, its rockness, and its sheer balls. "bachs bottom" in its audacity. "high priest" in the 'i bet you thought i'd try and recreate big star, but i'm gonna play a bunch of songs i like playing'. "a man called destruction" in its sheer fun. i probably saw alex 4 times solo before i saw him even play a big star song. the legendary cranky dude (who always knew how to put on a show) would just scoff at requests, wanting to play standards and the occasional solo tune. it was at this time i realized what and incredible musician he was. his guitar playing is some of the most expressive i've ever witnessed. i fucking loved those shows.
someone today mentioned everyone has a chilton story. mine was great. went to see him as a double bill with mazzy star. we got to the club incredibly early for some reason and witnessed hope sandoval onstage deeming the club unworthy and refusing to play. refunds were given, but as we walked out, chilton, the "codgy dude" was sitting next to the guy dispensing money asking "wanna be on the guest list?". we went back in and witnessed the loosest, incredible show ever. at one point, he and his standup bass player played a medley he called "buck to bach", where they did as advertised. buck owens and bass player grabbing a bow and playing bach as alex followed along.
i got to see the reformed big star a couple of times, most memorably at SXSW a few years back. they were fucking brilliant. in no small part to the posies guys who were born to fill those roles, and jody stephens was beaming. alex was playing along. he had no love for that, and i admired him for it. the "been there, done that" mentality.
but i think my favorite alex moment ever was at my first big star reunion show i saw at tramps in the 90s. in the middle of the show, he whips out an idea for a cover to the guys, a dorsey swing song from the 40s (i wanna say pennsylvania 54-609, but i'm gettin no love from google!). he starts playing it and is excited. the band doesn't reciprocate and he's perplexed.
text honors go to jack who sent ... "tell (your wife) i'm sorry it happened on her birthday"
ps- i have an amazing show, which i did not attend, from the old knitting factory. the power was out and he played acoustic, with candles lighting the place. i'm going to post that soon.
Monday, March 15, 2010
titus andronicus "the monitor"
drive-by truckers "the big to-do"
albums of the year (so far) ... two records that have infected me.
"the monitor" ... really? civil war you punk ass northern kidz? ... the short ... comically long songs ... pretentious as all get out ... channelling jim steinman songwriting at times ... shades of ghostface (a fucking scooby doo reference? this dude is craig finn on a heavy sugar diet, the mix of billy bragg and the boss refs on the first tune is both brilliant and STOOPID), and the best fucking record i've heard in A WHILE. a way more compelling vision of teen alienation (and they ain't teens) than zen arcade (which, can we now agree was never a concept album to begin with?) or "footloose". this shit is fun, this shit is rock, this shit has a backbone. this is the odd record i hear and WISH i was in the band playin gtr. listening to this record gives me an understanding of what's going thru peep's screamin heads when they hear the opening chords of "thunder rd" or "heat of the moment" ... and not for nuthin, "theme from cheers" is not only the best song title of '10, but the best song (so far).
"the big to-do" ... slow burn epic in a fucking history of epics ... patterson tossin of ideas like a drunken nobel (not gettin thru the ideas half the time, but that's the fuckin charm) ... halfway thru wonderin why not more cooley??? (monster throwin scraps) ... they bought new pedals? .... backup vocals? ... "this fuckin job" bein a more compelling argument than anything obama has come up with as prez... shonna, who knew? adding a reigning sound worthy tune ... and cooley closin this thing with a ballad that could kill a fuckin loaded steam train.
i want these bands to date twice, get drunk, and fucking smack each other around.
Friday, March 12, 2010
interesting ... i just recently finished joe boyd's autobio "white bicycles". a great read which includes NOTHING about the band he's referencing. he commented on this elsewhere.
'American groups are very fluent. In any town you can find a bar with a jam band. There's places to play all the time. That doesn't happen much in Britain. English musicians are much less experienced and accomplished in a variety of styles. They're much less fluent. But when it comes to creating original pop music, it was an advantage because they had to reinvent the wheel. The fluency of American musicians led to a flattening out. They knew how to do everything but they just fit into long-established patterns. Whereas English people didn't. So you got a load of of English art students starting a band and not knowing what they wre doing and having to invent a way to play the original songs that had been written by the strong personality who led the band. And it was very effective in creating stuff that was genuinely a different take on this African American form.
Some of the most successful American things combine the two. What fascinated me about REM when I worked with them (Boyd produced Fables of the Reconstruction in a studio in Wood Green in 1985) was that they were like a mid-Atlantic meeting. You had Bill Berry and Mike Mills who were a good old boy rockin rhythm section who played frat parties for five years and could play anything. Then you had Stipe and Buck who were like English guys working in a record store reading liner notes, intellectuals who were trainspotterish about music and imagined things in their heads but had no real facility to do it. Peter Buck is not a guitar hero. He's a nerd who studied Fairport Convention records. Michael Stipe was full of all these ideas that he never thought he'd be able to do and then they met. That combination is what gave REM its power'.