Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hey, even though there are a hundred million MP3 blogs out there, why don't I post a few MP3s of songs I've been enjoying lately? That will kill a few minutes and fill some space on this blog for sure!

"Program Me," Bruce Haack. From the 1970 album Electric Lucifer, which is some sort of concept album about war (he's against it) and technology (he's for it, maybe? this part is unclear). Electric Lucifer is a electronic psych rock album that's both ahead of its time (heavy use of synthesizers and vocoders several years before it would become commonplace) and extremely dated (simplistic hippie anti-war sentiment). This particular song, with its robotic groove and anthropomorphizing of technology, reminds me of Devo minus the irony. (This MP3 has a skip from the vinyl near the end. Sorry, but what do you want for nothin'?)

"No Escape," Cabaret Voltaire. For some reason, I always avoided these guys until recently. (Their suffocatingly dour public image, which led me to believe that they would be monotonously grim and dull? Dislike of the countless groups that copped from them later in the 80s? My intense dislike of that rascal Ferris Bueller, who had a poster of the CV album Micro-Phonies in his room for some reason?) I was wrong, their early stuff is great: claustrophobic, atmospherically creepy, grimly evocative of bleak late 1970s industrial decay. It's all the good things about watching Eraserhead without having that cow fetus thing rattling around in your memory space forever. This is a cover of a Seeds song that blows away the original, driven by a simple organ riff and a rickety 4/4 drum machine pattern that repeats itself into your cerebral cortex. And like almost all early Cab songs it's got that omnipresent primitive synth squall that sounds like that thing at the dentist's office that sucks out the saliva from your mouth.

"August Morning Haze," Oneida. From the upcoming album The Wedding, half of which is that good ol' dark droning psych stuff America has come to love from Oneida and half is a stab at baroque, stringladen minor key pop in a Zombies/Left Banke style. This is one of those string-adorned songs, albeit one that is dominated by guitar and banjo with the strings providing color rather than carrying the arrangement. The chorus to this song has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it. This kind of music is a tightrope between pretty melodicism and overly ornate rococo fluff, and Oneida walks it deftly thoughout The Wedding.

"Gone! The Promises of Yesterday," The Mad Lads. This is from the Volume II of the Stax/Volt complete singles box, circa 1971 when Stax's grasp on the R&B charts was starting to weaken. I never heard this until it came up on iTunes Party Shuffle, and it's not hard to hear why it wasn't a big hit - it's kind of a strange song, with the bass singer ominously interjecting the title and one of the Lads repeating the word "away" in a weirdly obsessive manner for the last minute of the song's duration. It's great, though, those incredibly melodramatic soul string arrangements and the "promises promises" chorus swirling around to that catchy yet haunting finale.

"Oh Lord," Brian Wilson. From the infamous sessions circa 1981 where Dennis Wilson would ply Brian with bags of coke and McDonald's hamburgers in a failed attempt to rouse him from his long stupor. This is the one piece from that bootleg that is worth hearing, although it's a frustratingly fragmented and poorly recorded mess. There are elements here that would make a great song if it had been completed: the funereal organ playing a 1950s doo wop progression slowed down to a crawl, the "let me hear their song" verse melody that recalls classic Beach Boys songs stripped bare of all of their youthful optimism, the lilting organ coda. Hearing Brian break the sad tranquility of this song by shouting out "Oh Lord, please let me see all there is to see" in a cracking, pain-wracked voice is one of the most jarring and disturbing moments I can recall hearing in music. Honestly, this song makes me feel uncomfortably voyeuristic, like I'm intruding on someone else's private turmoil. Nevertheless, it's an incredibly raw, gorgeous, moving piece of art.

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