I Robot (1977) by The Alan Parsons Project

Categories: 1977 and Music.

When I was young and obsessed with prog rock, people used to make fun of me. They would learn I loved prog and they would be bemused or even a little shocked/outraged. And I was confused because I really liked the stuff. Eventually, I realized that those who made fun of my tastes were often talking about different prog. One day my friend just started ripping on Supertramp and then apologized to me and I finally realized that what my friends thought was prog and what I was listening to were two different types of prog. Based on this record, Read More

Roxy Music (1972)

Categories: 1972 and Music.

On their debut, Roxy Music appear to have stumbled upon a unique take on art rock: it’s borderline prog at times but Ferry’s songs and croon are just way too rooted in popular music conventions (whether they subtly overturn them or not) for this to be mistaken as King Crimson or some Canterbury scene band or what have you. Read More

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (1974) by Peter Hammill

Categories: 1974 and Music.

This is a weird combination of what sounds like super eccentric singer-songwriter solo stuff and music that is basically Van Der Graaf Generator. It’s an odd mix that I would find less appealing if I didn’t like Hammill or VDGG so much. It’s great that Hammill wrote so much so that even when the band was on hiatus he just had so much material. But one of the things I struggle with while listening to solo albums from the frontmen or songwriters of bands is when their solo music sounds too much like their band. That’s a weird problem to Read More

The Idiot (1977) by Iggy Pop

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Recorded before Low but released afterwards, The Idiot feels in many ways like the missing link between “The Berlin Trilogy” and Station to Station. Though it’s Iggy’s solo debut, it is the least Iggy Pop album he recorded, as far as I know. I do think the criticism that Bowie hijacked Iggy for his own ends is fair. Read More

Peter Gabriel [Car] (1977)

Categories: 1977 and Music.

With hindsight, it feels like Gabriel had yet to really figure out who he wanted to be on his debut album. There are songs that sound a little sub-Genesis and then there are songs that sound like he is positioning himself as a sort of sub-David Bowie. Then there are tracks that sound sort of like the late 70s early 80s Peter Gabriel in utero. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge. Read More

The Return of the Durutti Column (1980)

Categories: 1980 and Music.

This is a really unique take on Post Punk, if it can even be called that, featuring expressive guitar playing over some pretty minimalist bass and drums (sometimes not even that). In fact, it’s more the era it was made in and the legendary post punk producer who supervised it that mark it out as post punk; I’m not sure it really qualifies, But regardless of what it is, the music is lovely and really stands out from the other British bands of the era, though the production is kind of dated. Pretty interesting. 8/10 Read More

Music from The Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996) by The Olivia Tremor Control

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a rather ridiculous record that asks us to indulge this band’s impulses immediately. This is a debut album and yet it’s a double LP length and it’s full of 10 tracks with the same name and numerous experiment that could have been cut. When these guys want to write songs, they’re pretty good at it. But there’s just so much damn material here and lots of it isn’t up to the standards of the opening tracks. And this thing is just so damn worshipful of both 60s psychedelia and early 70s McCartney. If you like that stuff, well Read More

Skeleton Tree (2016) by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Categories: 2016 and Music.

Push the Sky Away felt to me like a radical departure but, if anything, this feels like an even more radical departure from the sound of The Bad Seeds. Though there are a couple of tracks that recall the sound they’ve pursued since the 90s, most of it is unrecognizable as this band. That’s a good thing, I think. And brave for musicians of this age. People all want this record to be about Cave’s son’s death but my understanding is that most of these songs were written well before that. Regardless, this is not Cave’s best set of songs Read More

The Royal Scam (1976) by Steely Dan

Categories: 1976 and Music.

My first Steely Dan record doesn’t really endear me to them. (Nor does reading that Aja is mellower…) I love jazz, but I can’t say I love R and B with a jazz influence, which is what this sounds like to me. Too much R and B, not enough jazz, for my tastes. I like some of Fagen’s lyrics – a lot of them – and I think I would like this band if they were a little more into jazz rather than “jazzy.” But this is just not my thing. It’s well done, it has surprisingly decent lyrics, but Read More

Traineater (2007) by Book of Knots

Categories: 2007 and Music.

I think most people who come to this record because of the musicians involved will invariably have really high expectations, which is a problem. But a concept album about the decline of US industry made by some of the best experimental rock musicians with so many notable guests – Tom Waits!!! Trey Spruance!!! Mike Watt!!! – is bound to raise expectations. And, if you come to this later, as I have, there might also be an inclination to see this as the beginning of Bossi’s and Kihlstedt’s descent from avant garde weirdness and cutesy indie pop. And so I must Read More

Horses (1975) by Patti Smith

Categories: 1975 and Music.

Smith tries to do the same thing Jim Morrison did: combine rock music with serious poetry. I’d Smith’s far more successful as her approach is more musical than theatrical. However, The Doors were a much more versatile band than The Patti Smith Group. Anyway, musically this is basically just the kind of rock and roll that was common to New York at the time – where the emphasis was on energy over professionalism and idiosyncratic approaches to playing over traditional ideas of mastery – with some very good lyrics. I prefer Television and the Voidoids but Patti Smith was first Read More

Siren (1975) by Roxy Music

Categories: 1975 and Music.

I only know one Roxy Music album, For Your Pleasure. I like it, I don’t love it. But one of the things I like about – perhaps the thing I like about it most – is the artiness of it, provided primarily by Eno and Manzanera (to my ears). I assumed that when Eno left the artiness did too, but according to reviews, it didn’t leave just yet. Not until this album. And that makes me sad. This is certainly as mainstream as art rock gets without ceasing to be art rock. It’s accessible (as these things go), its often Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume II – Water (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately I have not been able to hear Volume I so this review is only of Volume II. It’s a tough call though, because ostensibly, a lot of the appeal of this, and the reason the discs are separate even though they don’t have to be, is for stylistic reasons. So without hearing Volume I, I cannot comment as to how Volume II diverges. And that’s a problem, because Volume II is basically just somewhat commercial Post Hardcore. It’s hard to get excited about it. When reviewing another one of these bands a few years ago, I worried that Post Read More

Peter Gabriel [Melt] (1980)

Categories: 1980 and Music.

On December 31, 2008, I wrote the following: This may sound stupid, but this sounds little too much like 1980. They had a good thing going, those Genesis guys…and while I know that version of the band could never have topped The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, neither Gabriel nor the rest of the band ever demonstrated that kind of creativity again. That being said, this record is fine. There are some fine moments. However, the “world music” feels almost flown in compared to everything else. Both Bowie and the Discipline version of Crimson do aspects of this better. I Read More

Aoxomoxoa (1969) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1969 and Music.

This is the first Dead studio album to come after the ridiculous mindfuck that was Anthem of the Sun. This is much more representative of the Dead as a band (and, with hindsight, we can say especially as a band in the studio) but it’s far less interesting as a record. That’s not to say it’s bad, not at all. It’s just not crazy and life changing. In retrospect we can view it as a transition from the psychedelia and avant rock of their early records to the country and roots of the next year. But for the most part Read More

New Blood (2011) by Peter Gabriel

Categories: 2011 and Music.

I have always struggled with getting into post-Genesis Gabriel because his music has often struck me as over-produced. I finally feel like his songwriting has received the the proper, appropriate arranging and production here. This is a great way at looking back at one’s career. Some of the new versions are really radical – some of them not so much – and almost all are interesting, many improving greatly on the originals (“Solsbury Hill” is probably the only one I’m ‘meh’ on at the moment.) It’s a shame more of the artists who insist on reviving old music don’t do Read More

The United States of America (1968 Columbia)

Categories: 1968 and Music.

This stuff is mind-blowing. Almost as out there as Zappa and the Mothers (at their very weirdest) or the Velvets (at their very artiest) and not quite as crazy – and far more artsy – as Beefheart was about to get. It’s too band the sound isn’t exactly great, as apparently these guys were very, very noisy in concert, which doesn’t exactly come across here. The songs aren’t exactly great – Zappa was certainly the better composer – and the band could really use a real rock singer. (I do get that having a singer like her was part of Read More

Frances the Mute by the Mars Volta (2005 GSL)

Categories: 2005 and Music.

The more I listen to the Mars Volta the more I become convinced that they are pretty much the only mainstream band keeping the spirit – if not the sound – of progressive rock alive. They manage to combine relatively adventurous ideas – whereas early prog rock usually borrowed from Romantic music or mainstream jazz, they borrow from free jazz and funk – with the volume that only a few select prog rock bands from back in the day actually managed. Too many of the revivalist neo-prog bands don’t are about the “rock” part of progressive rock but these guys Read More

Vintage Violence by John Cale (1970 Columbia)

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I like Cale. I think he is often a great lyricist (except on Slow Dazzle, where he is lazy) and I think he was certainly the most musically interesting member of the Velvets. But he is not a great songwriter. He lacks a bit of an ear for melody. The only record of his that I really notice any strong melodies is 1919 (which has become my favourite of his) and even then it took me forever to get into that. I have this problem on everything I hear by him, he just doesn’t write compelling songs to back up Read More

Friday night

Categories: 1973, 1979, 2005, and Music.

I’ve given up on my essay for today and I’m drinking “Austria’s Finest Beer” I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd a lot today and I can’t help thinking how great a guitarist David Gilmour is. Yes, there are far better guitarists in terms of say speed or innovation, but I think few rock guitarists rival his tone, aside from Clapton. It’s just ridiculous. And his solos are always exactly what the song / soundscape needs. While I’m on that, despite all The Wall‘s faults, Bob Ezrin is a brilliant producer. If you can fault The Wall, you can because of Read More

The Black Cat (1934, Edgar G. Ulmer)

Categories: 1934 and Movies.

In the CD player: nothing…but I’m listening to Faith No More’s cover of Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s in Love.” I just bought Peel Slowly and See, the Velvet Underground’s boxed set for only $50, tax included. I’m super happy. Even though I really shouldn’t have spent the money. Watched The Black Cat. It’s pretty crazy for its time (1934). There are some cool angles and cuts. The hero isn’t really all good. Interesting but not for anyone who doesn’t like 1930s movies. 8/10 Guess I don’t have much to say about anything right now. Reading Week has basically started (though Read More