Second straight Mac-related SotW - I've been on a bit of Mac kick lately, even delving into Lindsey's solo work - haven't found anything all that great as of yet, but with few interesting new releases thus far in '14, I intend to keep digging.
This track comes from the hour-long Tusk tour documentary from 1980, which includes several live performances, studio footage, and plenty of interviews. Stevie practices some ballet; Christine discusses the perils of the rock and roll lifestyle; Lindsey addresses his role as de facto musical arranger of the band; Mick sniffles suspiciously throughout and generally acts like a douche; and each of the members manage to passive-aggressively point out how useless John is. The documentary is definitely worth watching in a sort of "real life Spinal Tap" kinda way - not to mention that the live footage is great.
1.) SONG OF THE YEAR: Palma Violets - "Last of the Summer Wine"
Just like countless other great rock n' roll songs, this one's greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah, the intro's too long on this song. And so's the outro. The lyrics are moronic. (The "official" video is absolute garbage - see above.) And the chord progression isn't exactly original but... there's just somethin' about the classic guitar tone and the finesse they play the lick with and the sweet, sweet melody that slays me every time.
"How bad did this year suck?" you ask. Well, it sucked so bad that I had to change the rules to where live albums are disqualified just to keep an archival live release from being my Album of the Year. Why did I feel the need to even bother tweaking the formula? I DON'T FUCKING KNOW!!!!! So, I guess, congrats to Phish for having the year's best release overall. Huzzah!
Anyway, let's have at it, shall we........
1.) ALBUM OF THE YEAR - Deafheaven - Sunbather
A gorgeous, terrifying, exhausting album - casual listening this is not. While retaining the unrelenting brutality of black metal as the musical underpinning, Sunbather adds gorgeous, melodic guitar lines reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, ratcheting up the drama with a keen Mogwai-esque understanding of how to manipulate quiet / loud dynamics.
2.)Ceramic Dog - Your Turn
This is a helluva album, and it's also a helluva unexpected album. It's incredibly rare that a musician who has attained Marc Ribot's level of success and renown in the jazz world chooses to express himself artistically in a manner that's as angry, ornery, and loud as Your Turn, but it's not simply experimenting with a mode of expression that's a triumph here; it's that the album is a smashing success. Your Turn takes its detours down several stylistc alleys (heavy blues / hard rock, grunge, distorted fusion jams reminiscent of late-period Hendrix, and even a cacophonous, distortion-heavy update of a classic jazz tune) while streamlining the more freeform, scattershot approach taken on the trio's more noodly previous album, Party Intellectuals.
Ribot's tone on Your Turn is furious, his desire to rock is unwaveringly unapologetic, and the music's heavy grooves are arresting. So, listen to this if you like great music, otherwise feel free to go fuck yourself.
3.) Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell and Angels
If you're skeptical of yet another posthumous Hendrix release, you should be; the list of "archival" stuff that's been pinched off in the 43 years since Hendrix' death is littered with shoddy quality bootleg material and inessential, often redundant crap, the sheer quantity of which greatly outpaces the (occasionally transcendent) worthwhile stuff by a large margin. Sure, I'm definitely a sucker for unreleased / archival stuff, but this release works surprisingly well on its own as a cohesive album. Comprised mostly of material Hendrix was working on as a follow up to Electric Ladyland, People, Hell and Angels allows the listener a rare glimpse at what might have been had Hendrix' appetite for heroin and pills been less fiendish.
4.) Palma Violets - 180
Earlier this year, Palma Violets were apparently the subject of the creepy-ass UK music press' embarrassing crush; of course, if you're actually regularly reading the NME you've likely already lost the battle. Regardless, this album is a real success, incorporating classic chord progressions, strong melodies, and a warm, inviting garagey sound into their sonic stew. Where many indie acts seem to be self-consciously stuck playing small ball, 180 is unafraid to swing for the fences, evoking the work of several of music's heavy hitters (J&MC, Stone Roses, Velvets, even Springsteen) without being dominated by their influences.
5.)The Men - New Moon
The Men are a band that's seemingly always in the middle of significant stylistic flux, and growing pains are to be expected as a side effect of significant experimentation. New Moon sees them attempting to situate their music on an AM AOR station circa 1976. But for all the genre hopping that they've done over the course of their relatively brief career, to their credit these guys seem like real students (and practitioners) of "what makes rock music great," instead of simply hipster dilettantes.
Over the course of their career, Kylesa has transformed from a kinda generic sludgy metal act into possibly the hookiest "heavy" band making music today. The highlights of Ultraviolet pick up right where standouts like "Dust" and "Tired Climb" (from their very good 2010 release, Spiral Shadow) left off. The main difference is that Ultraviolet marks Laura Pleasants' blossoming into a true metal ubergoddess, showcasing her diverse vocal styles alongside the textured, heavy riffage.
Fleetwood Mac - Extended Play EP
While there's nothing really groundbreaking on here, what do you really expect of these guys at this point, 4+ decades into their career? This EP has four songs, the first two of which are pretty good, and the last two of which are kinda boring but still have their merits. Extended Play bears the mark of ham-handedly trying to seem more spontaneous than it is; the vocals are noticeably kinda rough in spots, and the instrumentation is much less labored-over than their peak '70s work. Interestingly enough, "Without You" is apparently a leftover from Stevie and Lindsey's pre-Mac career. Neat!
Andrew Stockdale - Keep Moving
It's not that the first Wolfmother album was terribly original, but what it did do was breathe life into the same old classic rock tropes with energetic performances. Andrew Stockdale has abandoned the Wolfmother name and gone solo (exactly why, again?), producing this overlong, gassy, inessential album. Although this album isn't a great listen, you may have fun with your other AOR-loving friends going through it front to back and matching the licks / guitar tones / organ fills to the artists that used them originally. "Hey! This one kinda sounds like James Gang!" "I'm hearing Grand Funk, bro!" / etc.
[NOTE: in Jalepzerz' never-ending quest to bring you only the finest in music journalism, the following is a review of a recent Fleetwood Mac show attended by my good pal, Beafvy. Enjoy!]
When Tuddd and the staff at Jalepzerz call, you answer, and that's why for the first time since college I'm writing a piece of prose that is not an e-mail. Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the reunited (again) Fleetwood Mac (minus Christine) at American Airlines Center in Dallas and will do my best to put into words my feelings before, during and after the show. A little advanced preview: I liked it....A LOT.
Got off work at 5PM after a long day, grabbed my partner-in-crime Whole Wheatt Muffin (from here on referred to as WWM) and headed to Dallas at 6, which is now a 40 minute drive from where I'm living. Found some rich dude on CraigsList looking to dump 2 tickets at the 11th hour. Turns out he had 2 in Row A, commonly referred to as OLD MAN SEATS (OMS!), 300 level directly facing the stage which he was willing to sell for $100 below face. Score! Snagged the tickets, headed to the lot. Arrived about an hour prior to show time and slammed some craft beer, most notably Hoptimum by Sierra Nevada. Got into the venue with a nice buzz -- ready to "rock the eff out."
A little background before delving into the details of the show. I'm unsure of how I came to truly appreciate the music of Fleetwood Mac. I did not grow up with them as a staple in my house, so there's no sentimental value for me there a la Springsteen, Hi Infidelity, Boz Scaggz, my "dad's" favorite Colin Hay, every crappy alt-rock band from the late 90s, etc. I saw them once almost 10 years ago and thought they were very good, if not earth shatteringly awesome in the live setting. Additionally, I am not a Tusk revisionist who will try to sell you on what a brilliant left turn Tusk was for Fleetwood Mac following Rumours, although I tried to be. Obviously it's their excellent hit-writing ability, Lindsay's guitar work, the drama, the drugs, Christine's voice and the legend that is Stevie. One last thing before the review -- I highly recommend the book Storms by Carol Ann Harris -- Lindsay's girlfriend after Stevie. It has to be considered the definitive account of the Mac, and it's written by someone who was in their inner circle. It's a real page turner!
Anyway...preshow music included what I thought was an instrumental version of Lindsay song "Bleed to Love Her," which might be the first time I've heard a band use their own song in the pre-show selection.
Onto the live stuff, they began the set with "Secondhand News," which is your aperatif before the ~25 course meal that the band is about to serve you. They proceeded to jump right into the big guns -- "The Chain," followed by "Dreams" and "Rhiannon," with a break in between for pleasant new song "Sad Angel." The first thing that strikes me during the performance of "The Chain" is that the band is very sharp, especially in the vocal department. The sound is loud and clear and decidedly "not canned." "Rhiannon" contains a nice little vocal outro by Stevie, who's definitely still got it. Stevie and Lindsay maintain their tremendous, fucked up, fractured stage chemistry after all these years and I'm just blown away by how crisp they sound and how great the vocal harmonies are four-plus decades into their career.
Lindsay on the mic for the next section, where we get our Tusk mini-set. Lindsay song "Not that Funny" is a bit of a tuneless dud. This is followed by Tusk's title track with drawn out repetition of the iconic hook, complete with Chuck Berry-esque "duck walk" stage antics by Lindsay and psychedelic video footage of the USC marching band. They could play the main musical phrase of this song repeatedly for half an hour and I'd leave (at least somewhat) happy. Next up, Stevie's 2 ballads from Tusk "Sisters of the Moon" and "Sara" -- not my favorites, but her dedication to the material sold it and Lindsay's riffing in the background of "Sisters" was nice. This was by far the favorite part of the show for the lesbians to the right of me. Heavy presence of lesbians at both Mac shows I've been to FWIW.
And back to the hits. For this section of the show, a large curtain is dropped from the rafters and Lindsay and Stevie are projected XXXL style onto the curtain. This was a nice touch. "Big Love" showcased Lindsay's excellent banjo-inspired fingerpicking technique, "Landslide" was your Stevie showcase, with some of the evening's strongest vocals, followed by "Never Going Back Again" featuring more of Lindsay's intricate fingerpicking. Pissbreak for another pleasant new track "Without You" and then they go into their late-ish period hit "Gypsy" from their Mirage album, a personal fave. While it was excellent to hear, what I wouldn't give to hear Lindsay jam on the outro guitar solo for another few minutes. A five song run ended the main set, containing "Gold Dust Woman" (explained to WWM as Stevie's song about "being a cokehead witch") and "I'm So Afraid" with Lindsay in full guitar god shredding mode and "duck walk reprise." Quick commentary on Lindsay -- he's gotta be the most underappreciated guitarist out there, no? "Go Your Own Way" closes this thing down. A classic tune to be sure, but I keep my distance, as the last time I saw the Mac this song ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy for a past relationship. I decided here to scale back the "rockin out" in deference to simply beholding the power of aforementioned cokehead witch.
Encore was "Don't Stop," a rousing crowd pleaser followed by "Silver Springs," possibly the band's biggest stunner (abhorrently left off of Rumours by Mick Fleetwood). This version, like most I'm sure, builds perfectly to the crest of the first chorus and then just takes us home from there. They played "Say Goodbye" after this, but WWM and I left to beat the traffic and start the 40 minute drive a little early. How many times did I say "UH-MAY-ZING" after the show? Quite a few. Most "in awe" and "spellbound" I've been at a show in a long time, this side of Phish.
One last note before I end this overlong piece. Mick Fleetwood had a spot towards the end of the main set where he introduced the band, giving a fairly nice tribute to Stevie and Lindsay as well as John McVie ["the backbone of the band"]. Fittingly, nobody in the band did the "and here's Mick Fleetwood!" bit. Good thing because Mick is a fucking stiff. I have an ongoing debate with the founder of this blog about who holds the honor of worst drummer in major rock band history: Mick or Ricki Rockett from Poison. It's a close race, but needless to say if this band has an AVERAGE drummer the show could have been even better. Mick is like a 2 year old with cerebral palsy banging on toy drums and pots and pans -- no sense of rhythm, no fills, nothing interesting. He even somehow managed to just forget to play the "thunder bang" drum part right before the chorus in "Dreams," his ONE notable (admittedly awesome) contribution to this all-time great band. All that said, on this evening the band could not be derailed by the deficiencies of their incompetent dickhead drummer as they found a way to truly "translate and transcend."
With 2013 1/3 over, it's list time. The title of this post is a tad misleading; if this list comprised all of my favorite songs from this year, it would have more GbV / Thermals / Hendrix / The Men / etc. songs. Instead it's more like "one good song from each of the albums / EPs I've enjoyed most this year, plus the Roomrunner single." So, presented in no particular order, here's that.
There are some really nice tidbits on the recent Rumours reissue, including some embryonic versions of "The Chain" that have completely different lyrics (and a different title), versions of "Never Going Back Again" and "You Make Loving Fun" which feature Stevie on harmony vocals, and, of course, the legendary "Silver Springs" which was incomprehensibly left off of the album and consigned to B-side territory. The above song, "Think About It," is my current addiction. Although composed during the sessions for Rumours, it remained unreleased until it was included on Stevie Nicks' 1981 solo debut, Bella Donna, with a much slower tempo. It's been said before many times, but it's really incredible to try to fully grasp the wealth of excellent material the Mac was creating around the time of Rumours, no?