M9, Summilux 50mm
Archive for October, 2009
Yes, it matters. If you were to — as I did — just preview Doherty’s solo album via the iTunes 30-second snippets, you might hear the notoriously dissolute Libertine and Babyshambler in the Kinks-influenced guise all British rock stars at some point don — part music hall showman, part busker — and be tempted to pass. It was only with the arrival of the December Uncut and its boss interview with Blur guitar genius Graham Coxon that we learned he’s the axeman on it. And of course, when you hear a song like “Palace and Bone” it all comes clear, and it is pretty wondrous.
I didn’t succumb to the charms of Coxon’s folk album, The Spinning Top. I want to hear him play those weird, twisted tunings like “Song 2″ all the livelong day, not an update of Bert Jansch. I want his solo albums to be like Happiness in Magazines, the best British Powerpop album of 1979, even if it was released in like 2004. On Pete Doherty’s “Grace/Wasteland”, Coxon’s able to shine the light on both sides of his musical personality, the rough and raw and the fey and magical, gloriously twisted in both camps.
Admission: Tulip Frenzy ranked Babyshambles’ Shotters Nation one of the best albums of 2007, and the resistance to Doherty’s solo album was a reluctance to commit, to take a leap of faith. It took the knowledge that Graham Coxon — perhaps the most brilliant guitarist between Nels Cline and the White Cliffs of Dover — was standing there on that Albion precipice to get us to jump. Thank Heaven we did. An eye opener, and ear pleaser, this one is.
If Tulip Frenzy were a bar, we’d call Peter Zaremba a friend of the house and set him up with a free one every time he sat down. How nice it was to hear from him yesterday, and to learn that one of rock’n'roll’s most entertaining writers has started his own blog entitled: Busybuddy, A Life of Excitement.
Now you may know Peter only as The Fleshtones’ singer, organist, and harp player, the funnest frontman ever to don a sequined shirt. You may remember him as an MTV host back in the day when the M in MTV stood for “music,” not “moronic.” You may not know that Peter is also a journalist nonpareil. For example, his GQ feature on the best and worst haircuts in rock history was hilarious and wonderful and only hints at his capabilities — which apparently are no longer in service to the late Modern Bride magazine, the demise of which has left a hole… well, somewhere.
Get ready to bookmark. Tulip Frenzy is pleased to start sending traffic to Busybuddy, A Life of Excitement.
It’s not exactly lost. You can find it on iTunes. It’s not like Oedipussy’s Divan, which took arduous Google sleuthing and a PayPal account to get delivered from across the pond.
But the more I listen to the Reigning Sound’s superb 2009 release Love and Curses, the more I realize their 2004 album, Time Bomb High School, is the one that got away, the one that should have put them on the map.
Yes, I bought it at the time. It didn’t escape notice. But how is it I went three years or more since the last time I’d listened to “I Walk By Your House” or “Your Not As Pretty”? And those aren’t even the rockers. Greg Cartwright’s voice — previously described on Tulip Frenzy as an amalgam of John Lennon, Plimsouls-era Peter Case, and Paul Westerberg, but let’s add The Saints’ Chris Bailey to the mix — is as gripping, and endearing, as any in rock’n'roll.
Love and Curses is ascending the Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List consideration with a bullet. Somehow, the fact that we weren’t pulling all-nighters waiting for its release seems like some kind of failing.
On his last album, Smoky Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, Devendra Banhart channeled Jim Morrison to delightful effect. Of course, that quaver in his voice could also harken Bryan Ferry to mind. I say “of course,” but really, the connection to Ferry wasn’t made until seeing on What Will We Be — Banhart’s far more successful Topanga-circa-’69 follow-up to Smoky – there’s a song entitled “16th And Valencia Roxy Music”. Interestingly, the connection here is as much to some of those mid-’70s Eno albums — or maybe even last year’s Eno-Byrne collaboration — as to anything by Roxy Music or Ferry’s solo work.
Beardless and trying harder, Banhart still occupies a unique corner of the musical cosmos, a Venezuelan-Texan hippie leprechaun who can effortlessly capture early ’70s SoCal folk-rock. What Will We Be is less ambitious but more consistent than Smoky Rolls Down Thunder Mountain, and recaptures some of intense magic of Cripple Creek, still the high water mark in his oeuvre. He’s no naif, but neither is he faux-naif; he’s somewhere in between, which is a hard balancing act. Devendra Banhart is a funny, highly intelligent craftsman with a unique voice and touch, less contemporary than Beck, and yet operating in that same timeless manner, respectful of rock’s traditions while also highly original.
The problem here is we want a complete album, and as always, there’s noodling and boredom pooling between islands of pop genius. Someday he’ll put it all together. Until then we marvel at what we have, and what he will be.
So of course the answer is that The Beatles In Mono sound perfect on the Bose iPod player. It’s a single speaker, not a stereo. And having these songs optimized for a single speaker fits it to a T. Too bad for Bose they couldn’t run a marketing campaign around the concept.