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Nov212021

Maiden Voyage: “Last Splash” by The Breeders (1993)


Wherein we consider wildly popular or important albums I have never heard before.

Context:

Had only heard of “Cannonball” , the band’s one hit and the album’s one single, up to this point. Familiar with The Pixies (i.e. the prior band of one of The Breeders two lead singers)  but not anything else by The Breeders at all. Missed the album entirely upon its release.


Initial Impressions:

Far more a base and drums band than I had thought. Bass makes sense as is the instrument of the band’s founder. But the drumming here has a martial urgency that reminds me of early U2 and vintage Janet Weiss from Slaeter Kinney and hits me in all the right places. Great vocal harmonies too but that’s not a surprise given the sibling chemistry of the frontwomen.

Hits:

“Cannonball”, “Roi”, “Flipside”, “SOS”, “Saints”, “Divine Hammer”, “Driving on 9”

Misses: “New Year”, “Invisible Man”, “No Aloha”


Assets:

Killer chops on all instruments, great vocals working brilliantly together, drawing from a wide range of inspirations (Sonic Youth, Americana-era X, Brill Building Pop).

Liabilities:

The band’s impressionistic, minimalist lyrics can make songs feel like sketches instead of finished pieces. Also (and I can’t believe I’m saying this)  for a pop-inspired band, The Breeders are not always served well by short run times on songs. Several of their 2 minute numbers feel curiously unfinished and could have benefited from another verse or chorus or just more of the same, because “the same” here is wonderful.


Verdict:

A very strong album I would totally buy on overpriced vinyl (an option, apparently).

This wasn’t my kind of music in 1993 when I was 20 so I doubt it would have spoken to me then. But I have enjoyed the project very much of getting to know music I missed the first time around. “Last Splash” was a great find 25 years later.

Sep222021

Listening to Every Song I Own: Songs #1843 — #2000 (of 12,218)

The latest update to my bewildering project to listen to all 12, 218 songs in my iTunes library straight through, no skipping (called Abba Zappa Zoo, thank you to my old friend Mike Gluck for the name) takes us from…

“Domino” by Van Morrison (Song #1843)

to

“The Dreamer” by Anderson.Paak (Song #2000)

The Math:

Songs: 167

Completion Percentage: 15.1% – 16.4%

Cold Facts:

May162020

Listening to Every Song I own: Letter “C”

The latest update in my absurd project to listen to all 11, 704 songs in my iTunes library straight through no skipping (called Abba Zappa Zoo, thank you to Mike Gluck ) included Song #1235: “Charlie Loves Our Band” by From Good Homes to #1334 “City Rising from the Ashes” by Deltron 3030.

The Math:

99 Songs
10.5% complete — 11.3% complete

Trivia:

“Charlie Loves Our Band” by the New Jersey folk rock band From Good Homes pays tribute to their most loyal fan in the group’s early days. It’s an incredibly sweet reminder that, when creating anything, you have to start with one “Charlie” and can always go somewhere higher from there.

“City Rising From the Ashes” is one of a dozen great songs on the self-titles dystopian hip hop album Deltron 3030 from the year 2000 about the year 3030.

1. The most common title words in this block are “City, Cherry, Child, Chill and Choice”

2. In one string of songs “City of Dreams” by the Philadelphia bar room rockers Marah and “City of Dreams” by The Talking Heads sit next to each other.

3. Best one-two punch: “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick followed by “Children’s Work” by Dessa.

5. Song you really must know but probably don’t…

“Chase” an instrumental soundtrack banger by Giorgio Moroder which has become intro/outro music for dozens of people, places and things.

 

Mar142020

Listening to All of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: Hemispheres

Hemispheres -- RUSH

I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart who died on Jan 7th at age 67. Next up…

Album Name: Hemispheres

Released: October 1978

Folks, I’m afraid this one’s going to be quite brief as Rush’s sixth studio album “Hemispheres” does nothing for me. The last of their golden prog rock period is the proggiest of them all, featuring on one site a mini rock-opera and on the the other a twelve-minute instrumental. The musicianship here beats all but leaves me cold as a dead fish: Virtuosity will never move me like songcraft. So fine, if you love this record, keep on doing you, but I’m going to take a quick pass and scuttle right on the next one.

Mar32020

Listening to all of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: A Farewell to Kings

 

"A Farewell to Kings" -- RUSH

I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, who died on Jan 7th at age 67. Next up…

Album Name: A Farewell to Kings

Released: September 1977

Rush’s fifth studio album is the second of their golden prog-rock period where side-length sci-fi tales of ridiculousness were coin of the realm. Many vintage RUSH fans love this stuff but it is not for me. Therefore, it will surprise no one that Mr. Peart’s contributions I zero in on here and continue to appreciate most all these years later, are on shorter, more approachable material.

Best Drums: “A Farewell to Kings”

Often overlooked, I think, due to its sonic similarity to “2112,” the band’s preceding album, what begins as a woodsy British folk ballad soars to the heights of a classical opera, mostly thanks to a wash of keyboards. But what would sound metallic and thin is made magisterial by the sober throb of Neil Peart’s drums. It’s foundational rhythm at its quiet best.

Best lyrics: “Closer to the Heart”

Possibly Peart’s finest composition, an open-chested plea for tolerance, peace and a new way of living from a famously shy and quiet man.

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the Heart
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart
Yea, Closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Plowmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart
Closer to the Heart

 

Feb62020

Listening to all of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: 2112

"2112" -- Rush

So I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart who died on Jan 7th at age 67.

Next Up:

Album Name: 2112

Released: April 1976

Rush’s forth studio album 2112 is a gloriously silly space opera that somehow manages to justify its excesses. Unlike its predecessor Caress of Steel its 973 minute opening takes us briskly into the rest of the album AND stands on its own instead of collapsing in on its own weight. Even though it’s hard to look at in plainly in retrospect (its the band’s breakthrough record and arguably them at their best. It’s human nature to muddle the two).

For the record, it is not my favorite incarnation of Rush and not why I signed on 35 years ago. I was barely in a full set of clothes in 1976 and my earliest memories of the band are when they’d left this stuff far behind. Still, I admire their nerve here as a young band and how well these epic pieces hold up live if not in fashion but in repeat performance.

Best drumming: That overture is mostly keyboard -driven but the drums sure buttress it nicely

Best lyrics:

Though it is simply about drug culture, “A Passage to Bangkok” paints a coked-out tableau with great wit and punnery.

“Our first stop is in Bogota
To check Colombian fields
The natives smile and pass along
A sample of their yield
Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams
Golden Acapulco nights
Then Morocco, and the East
Fly by morning light

 

Jan292020

Listening to all of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: Fly By Night

Rush: Fly By Night

I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart who died on January 7th at the age of 67. First up…

Album name: Fly By Night

Release Date: Feb 15, 1975

The Story: The band’s second studio album but first with Neil Peart is commonly regarded as the first album of what the band would be in the first stages of their career–hard rock, bluesy guitaring mixed with fantastical, science fiction themes and courageous (or silly) lengthy pro-rock excursions. Personally, I care for those less than RUSH acing their fundamentals: Superior musicianship and lyrics that can be indulgent and a bit juvenile at times but always contain brilliant turns of phrase and are never dull.

The title track Peart wrote about his failed 18 months living abroad, trying to crack into the English music scene. “Beneath, Between and Behind” was the first set of lyrics he ever wrote for the band

My favorite track:

“Fly By Night”

https://youtu.be/nEVDZl5UvN4

Favorite Drumming:

“Anthem” (accepting that drum solos do very little for me. I prefer drumming as a component of the song)

https://youtu.be/3oEQuzHp5I0

Favorite Lyric:

“Moon rise, thoughtful eyes
Staring back at me from the window beside
No fright, or hindsight
Leaving behind that empty feeling inside”

— Fly By Night

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