Archive for April, 2009

The Pink Mountaintops’ “Outside Love”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on April 30, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Judging by the album art,  the Pink Mountaintops Outside Love is not really a platter of of music, but a novel written by Professor McBean from the University of Vancouver. Stephen McBean may be the auteur, but music-making, unlike novel-writing, is a collaborative act (unless, of course, you’re Prince), and he seems to have recruited half the musicians in Canada to assist him.  These include, of course, his Black Mountain brethren, but also the likes of Sophie Trudeau (from various bands in Montreal.)  Even the New Pornographer’s Kathryn Calder shows up in the choir.

It’s interesting McBean’s eye for talent would wander to Montreal, given the expansiveness of the sound here, the cathedral space and Spector-esque density, which could put one in mind of the Arcade Fire.  Maybe the best way to think of this is McBean’s authorial sensibility has brought him to construct a number of short stories, harkening to the masters (Bowie’s “Heroes” being a template for “Axis: Thrones of Love,” The Velvet Underground’s entire clanging, thumping oeuvre the template for Outside Love‘s only outright rocker, “The Gayest of Sunbeams.”  He may as well be quoting from masters of the short form, like Raymond Carver and Donald Barthelme.)

It’s hard to know how this fits into the McBean cannon.  Here’s a guy whose Black Mountain’s most recent incarnation was brilliant early Pyschedelic Metal, and whose “Behind The Fall” is the single greatest evocation of NoWave ever — at least by someone who wasn’t there.  And here on “Holiday,” he sounds like he’s happy to play in a Mekons country dance around the campfire.  “And I Thank You” would not sound out of place on a Wilco album.   As an author, he stretches.  Previous outings by the Pink Mountaintops have been the faster counterpart to Black Mountain.  This one heads out in multiple new directions, but at mostly a slow pace. It is, in places, very beautiful, which is not a description often invoked when talking about Black Mountain or Pink Mountaintops (“thrilling” and “heavy” probably having the boldest print in a word cloud.).  It’s pretty  likely the next Black Mountain album will confound us all, because this author has so much talent, he can write anything, comedy or tragedy, and rock’n’roll in any of its many incarnations.

Bob Dylan’s “Together Through Life”

Posted in Music with tags , on April 28, 2009 by johnbuckley100

We will not be playing Together Through Life quite as often as we play Love and Theft, which you know was a masterpiece.  The logical question then is, is Together Through Life a masterpiece, too?  Not a chance, but it continues the old man’s winning streak, with coiled Chicago blues, and pretty American waltzes, played by the wizened bandmaster and his ace combo.

“Jolene” reminds us, if reminding we needed, that drummer George Recife really is the incarnation of Fred Bellows, the greatest drummer of Chess Records’ classic period.  We know from the Bill Flanagan interview that Dylan was emulating that sound — Chess Records, Sun Records, all those old analog studios.  In an interview a few years back, Dylan was incredulous about a producer miking each string on his guitar; he’d rather record like a bluegrass outfit, with one mike and the singer leaning forward to be heard.  And of course, doing it the old-fashioned way makes it sound gorgeous.  (It helps to have, in addition to his touring band, Mike Campbell rounding out the guitar section, and David Hidalgo on accordian.)

Too much of the early reviews have focused on the lyrics, not the music.  The music’s what counts at this stage, on a certain level.  Some years ago, Keith Richards tried justifying the Stones’ endless big tours by comparing them to the old bluesmen, Muddy and John Lee, who kept playing into their twilight years.  But the Stones tried to sound like young men, they didn’t age naturally, and the falsity of the stance is just one of the reasons why, as Dylan keeps producing masterworks, the Stones sound kind of ridiculous.  Those old blues men went out on tours, in some case earning the biggest paychecks of their lives long after they were too old to really enjoy it. They played their greatest hits, for the most part.  But Dylan keeps creating; he may be the first man in rock’n’roll history to hit his creative peak as a septuagenarian.  (Thus the touring with his contemporary, Willie Nelson.) So what if Dylan needs a little hamburger helper to serve up this dish — Robert Hunter flavoring the lyrics, rewriting classics like “I Just Want To Make Love To You” to deliver the deadpan hilarious “My Wife’s Hometown,” even reworking Willie Dixon’s “Who’s Been Talking” as the Chipotle-flavored “Beyond Here Lies Nothing.”  He sounds like a man his age — no, not just a man, a master, a Living National Treasure, in the Japanese sense.  Only a master could write a song like “Forgetful Heart.”

There aren’t a lot of analogies to the incredible late work Dylan has produced since Oh Mercy kicked off his mature efflorescence 20 years ago.  Well, maybe this one works:  “Picasso’s final works were a mixture of styles, his means of expression in constant flux until the end of his life. Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive.”  That 47 years on from his first record Dylan can record an album that is this funny, this pretty, this rocking, is more than a celebratory achievement.  He’s a freak of nature, witness and participant to history, canny enough to have cooked up another one while the snows were deep.  We should enjoy it while we can.

Long Evening Wait For New Dylan, Pink Mountaintops Releases

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Fortunately, there was moon through trees.  Leica M8, Summicron 90mm.

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New Songs By First Communion After Party

Posted in Music with tags , on April 27, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Now see here: http://minneapoliscast.com/mp3/Minneapoliscast.com-2009-02-fcap.mp3

In Anticipation Of The Pink Mountaintops’ “Outside Love”

Posted in Music with tags , on April 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Leica M8, Summilux 50, Mount Moran seen from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park.

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Will The Pink Mountaintops “Outside Love” Be The Album Of The Year?

Posted in Music on April 23, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Sure sounds like it’ll be in contention.  Due out May 5th, it defintely has the best album cover — Outside Love as a 1940s-era first edition novel, wrapped in blue velvet.  It sounds nothing like their earlier work, and a forensic examiner would be hard-pressed to find even trace elements of Black Mountain’s DNA.  Good Lord, far from the PM’s early Pere Ubu skronk, the synth-driven precursor to Black Mountain’s “Angels”, their MySpace page reveals Stephen McBean and company sounding far closer to Matthew Camirand’s Blood Meridian.  This is a Gastown hoe-down, or the Felice Brothers with good voices and something to say.  I’ve thought of McBean’s ensembles as music from urban lofts, but on this one, you can see mist lifting off fields pressed against the Vancouver Straits.  Sure seems like a week after we get to listen to the new Dylan album, our earbuds will be cranking Pink Mountaintops.

(Wanna hear it?  See that Pink Mountaintops link over there. Yeah, that’s the one.)

Update: iTunes sez April 28th’s the day.  Yippee.

King Khan Conquers The Steppes With “What Is”

Posted in Music with tags , on April 23, 2009 by johnbuckley100

The arrival of King Khan and the Shrines’ What Is makes a lad think of that first time he ever heard The Fleshtones, of Sun Ra being draped with his multicolored cloak, of Mitch Ryder shifting into overdrive.  If through some magic spell, King Khan was transported back in time to witness the Beatles’ first tour of America, he’d be the guy who left after the Sonics opened for them.  So it’s basically a reissue of a 2007 German album, and some of the songs — like the amazingly boss “(How Can I Keep You) Outta Harms Way” — already showed up on the compilation The Supreme Genius of King Khan and The Shrines — this is still the garage rock platter of the season.  The very hip know the band’s showing up at the 930 Club in DC next week, and from there are expected to levitate to wherever it is that Sun Ra’s Arkestra went after they left this mortal coil.  Life’s waaay too short to miss this one.

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