Leica M9, 21 mm Summilux.
Archive for April, 2010
Tulip Frenzy’s incredibly hip and extensive readership may have grokked Capsula’s penultimate album Songs & Circuits when it came out in 2008. It may have made 10 Best lists that year, and the world’s bright young rock crits may have added it to the fin de siecle roundups that were popular in the last few months of the last year of the last decade, er, five months ago. But damn, we missed the phenom entire. And of course when we were finally on the case, we naturally first snagged their latest, the incredibly fine Rising Mountains. Yet boss as that ‘un is, it is an underachiever when compared to its taller, stronger, faster old sib. Our whole world view under assault, and striving not to overcompensate and call Song & Circuits, like, the best punk album since Elastica, the only thing we can think to say is, Song & Circuits is, like, the best punk album since The Clash.
Seriously. This album is Desert Island good. It is Rocket To Russia good. Not quite Exile On Main Street good, in part because only time will make that case, partly because declaring it so interferes with one of Tulip Frenzy’s spring narratives, which is that the forthcoming re-release of the Stones’ classic is gonna trigger Jubilee Time, or the End of Days, or something suitably mega.
Back to Songs & Circuits. If this space has not yet prompted you to sidle over to the iTunes bar to check out Capsula — the real Capsula, not the dopey Israeli electronica outfit that are currently clogging the Amazon listings, but the genuine Buenos Aires-bred, Bilbao habitating trio with their Sonic Youth Meets Brendan Benson dynamic — then may we politely urge you to GET OFF THE DIME AND CHECK THESE GUYS OUT. And the place to start, actually, is Songs & Circuits. Only after you become acclimated to their immense greatness should you turn to last year’s Rising Mountains.
We had thought our life was reasonably complete without even knowing Capsula was out there. Now we realize life can never be complete until this band gets HUGE. Do your part.
From The Guardian, and very much worth reading, as it combines reporting with the many myths about the recording sessions in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
The alchemist with a glint in his eye drops the following ingredients into an old Sunbeam blender propped on a mahogany bar: Gun Club, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 8 Eyed Spy, The Cramps, Sonic Youth, Elastica, the Black Angels, the Stems, PJ Harvey, The Pretenders, Cracker, 13th Floor Elevators, Fleshtones, The D4, The Who, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Then he turns on the switch and we watch Roky Erickson’s Rickenbacker, Kim Gordon’s Go-Go boots, Pete Townshend’s plectrum, and Bill Milhizer’s drum stick dissolve into a fiery red magma which gets poured into a Sangria pitcher. You take one sip and swoon. Yep, that’s Capsula.
Little Steven could concoct a wide and varying playlist for The Underground Garage and never have to leave Capsula’s almost overwhelming encyclopedia of rock. Rising Mountains was released in the U.S. a year ago Monday, and while Tulip Frenzy regrets not putting these guys in the 2009 Top 10 List, we would have been downright chagrined if more than a year had gone by without us grokking on their Iberian fineness.
A few years ago, we marveled that Spain had produced the Shake. But comparing the Shake to Capsula is like comparing Owen Bieber to Iggy and the Stooges. A Spanish band you could see opening for, like, The Dandy Warhols? Well, globalism has it’s critics, but we’re not among them.
I can’t think of a working band around today I’d rather see right now. ’Course, we’d like to see these guys play in the U.S. of A, as over there in Spain they’d probably come on at 4:30 a.m. You know, right after dinner. Too bad we missed ‘em at SXSW.
(Hat tip to Andrew Bennett of San Francisco, CA, who admittedly did try getting Tulip Frenzy to open its ears. At least we saved the email and, after clicking on the link to Capsula’s site, accepted Espana’s greatest export since the Inquisition.)
UPDATE: Capsula is originally from Buenos Aires, though they’re based out of Bilbao. Also, for those who immediately headed to the iTunes store, there is another band using the same name, I believe, as it does not seem possible these guys could also produce dreamy electronica…
Who among us would not like to have a mulligan in life, an ability to go back to the mess we may have been at an earlier age and take another swing at things? Last year Richard Hell took the tracks to his 1982 release Destiny Street and recut the vocals and virtually all of the lead guitar parts, substituting Bill Frissell, Marc Ribot, and Ivan Julian for Naux and Robert Quine. He did this because when Destiny Street was recorded, Hell was a mess. As an adult, Lester Meyers decided to go back and “fix” what his alter ego produced way back when.
Except it doesn’t work. I mean, not at all. I admire Lester, in his guise as front man for the Voidoids, and as a pretty interesting novelist writing under the name of “Richard Hell.” But Hell’s bells, he may have been nodding off when he recorded Destiny Street, but there is no real improvement in his voice, 27 years after the fact, and I’ll just say it: obliterating the late Bob Quine’s lead guitar work on songs like “Going Going Gone” and “Time” is a crime against art.
I’ve listened to the two versions of the album side by side. The songs I never really cared for on the original album are at best modestly improved. The songs I adore are flat out ruined, and for one big reason. I’ve never been a huge fan of Ribot or Frisell, though I respect them, and of course I love Ivan Julian’s work, whether as a guitarist with the Voidoids or as producer of the Fleshtones. But Bob Quine was hands down the most interesting, canniest guitarist of his day. I would listen to — have listened to — Lloyd Cole just to hear Quine’s aggression and twisted logic spring notes like coils through a dusty couch. And here Hell/Meyers plows over Quine’s performance to have them updated by others. It’s like someone doing a scrape-off of a Frank Lloyd Wright home in order to build something a little more comfortable by a hip new architect.
Richard Hell and Voidoids, in both Blank Generation and Destiny Street were pretty unique among punk bands, in that they could really swing. Whether it was Mark Bell or Fred Maher on drums, or Ivan Julian or Bob Quine playing lead, these guys cornered tight and were light as cats. Hell’s messiness was charming. That by ’82 he was down to putting out records on Marty Thau’s label, and lost Quine’s services to Lou Reed; that in those days even NME was alluding to how stoned he was when they’d run into him at a Crazy Eddie’s, kinda doesn’t matter to the rest of us. It mattered to Hell/Meyers, so he went in and “Repaired” his record. Only he didn’t.
The release yesterday of “Plundered My Soul” shows a band respecting what they did in the original session, seemingly “repairing” things only at the margin. Today’s Times has a story on a Picasso — damaged when a woman fell through it — which at last has been stitched back together and is back on display at the Met. Destiny Street Repaired, I am very sad to say, is closer to what happened when that women fell through the Picasso, rather than the careful restoration of a precious work of art.
Have you ever had a dream where a deceased loved one is alive and talking to you? That’s a little bit what it’s like to hear the glorious “Plundered My Soul,” out this week as a teaser from the forthcoming Rolling Stones reissue of Exile On Main Street. Hearing Keith Richards singing, not croaking, backup vocals, not to mention Nicky Hopkins on piano, is surreal — and wonderful. The song has a definite “Tumbling Dice” vibe, but is no augmented fragment — from the great and fully formed lyrics to the performance by seemingly the whole Exile-era band, this feels steeped in the dank basement musk of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Just where did this song fit in the recording sessions that made up the Exile-era? We know that tracks for “Stop Breaking Down” were recorded as early as 1970 in Olympic Studios in London, and that the backup vocals for “Tumbling Dice” and “All Down The Line,” for example, were recorded in the Spring of ’72 in LA. Sounds here like aspects of the background vocals — Mick singing falsetto, for example, which he didn’t really begin to do in earnest til later in the ’70s — were probably what they added most recently in the studio. Moreover, there’s a trace of an organ in the background, which does make one wonder whether Billy Preston might be in there somewhere.
But you can’t bring Nicky Hopkins into the studio these days; he’s gone to the same place where Keith’s high-end vocals went. It sounds like the lead is Keith, not Mick Taylor, but I could be wrong.
This feels a little bit like that first time you heard “Tumbling Dice” blaring from a dorm room window in May ’72. A thrill, and a tonic to the soul.