Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mr. Know-it-All...?

MayB this will prove Nlightening.... While writing a comment at my buddy Rastro's music blog LA HISTORIA DE LA MUSICA ROCK (a really Xcellent site U should DEFinitely check-out, Rastro writes some great, often hilarious, essays -- he's at www.lahistoriadelamusicarock.blogspot.com/), I was reminded yet again of some REALLY VAST gaps I've got in my listening Xperience. Part of it's probly my advancing age, but there R a lotta acknowledged musical classics I've never got10 around 2.
There's A LOT I don't know about. As much as I might B able 2 babble about off-the-wall mostly-unheard British art-rock bands of the '70s or totally-unheard never-quite-hit singles of the early '70s, I've never heard a single Bob Dylan album all the way thru. (Who could survive it?) There R Beatles albums I've never heard all of -- SGT. PEPPER, 4 Xample. & as 4 NEthing after about 1990, well.... Xcept 4 some Nirvana, a little INXS, 2 albums wortha Coldplay & a few others here & there, U can pretty-much 4get it.
In an effort 2 whitewash this scandal, I've Dcided 2 come clean & give U a list of artists I'm ashamed 2 admit my lack of Xpertise w/, & why. I am -- slowly -- trying 2 fill-in some of these blank spots & would love some advice. If some of U out there would care 2 drop me a line & tell me why some1 is REALLY GREAT & where I should start, I'd appreciate it. I'm always intrested in reading rave reviews. In the meantime....

MOST MBARRASSING LAPSES:
Bob Dylan -- Outside of his hits & an Xcellent album track here or there ("One of Us Must Know," "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat," "Tangled Up in Blue"), I'm pretty ignorant about Uncle Bob. I think his 1st GREATEST HITS album is mostly useful as a comedy record ("Howl Along With Bob!"), tho I'd never deny the brilliance of "Like a Rolling Stone" or the importance of Dylan as a Poet....
Rolling Stones -- Only know the hits & a few classic album trax ("Sympathy for the Devil," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Gimme Shelter," etc). Bot their FORTY LICKS best-of a few yrs back in an effort 2 correct this, & it all sounds pretty good, Xcept 4 the stuff I've always hated.... & why wasn't "Street Fighting Man" a huge hit?! Hadta B the lyrics....
Led Zeppelin -- Like their lighter stuff: "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Battle of Evermore," "The Rover," etc. Can't take a lot of their heavier, bloozier stuff, tho "Immigrant Song" & "Kashmir" R both great & "Carouselambra" is a big fave. Also love the drum&bugle-corps middle-break on "Fool in the Rain." But "Whole Lotta Love" is real grotesque comedy & summa the rest I just can't hear....
Frank Zappa -- Man, he put out a lotta noise. "Directly From My Heart to You" & "Oh No" R pretty great, some others R mildly amusing ("Tinseltown Rebellion," "Montana," "Valley Girl"), but the rest I just Don't Get -- or the sloppy presentation & trashy humor puts me off....
David Bowie -- I love "Changes," "Suffragette City," "Modern Love," "Under Pressure," & he was a pretty great songwriter (tho I prefer Nirvana's version of "The Man Who Sold the World"), but I don't get the rest....
Elvis -- Who? Ever heard "Mystery Train"? Great! A few of his hits R pretty great -- "Marie's the Name (of His Latest Flame)," "Little Sister," "Promised Land" (amazing!), etc. But I was born 2 late 2 B much of a fan, as with most '50s & early-'60s stuff....

NEVER HEARD A NOTE OF:
Can, Van der Graaf Generator, Brian Eno. (But I'll B working on them....)

WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?:
The Band -- "The Weight" is a classic, but I Don't Get the rest. What little I've heard sounds like messy, lazy country-rock dirges.
Heavy Metal -- I'm not really qualified 2 comment about AC/DC, Ozzy, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath.... I sometimes wish I could get the laffs & over-the-top spectacle from them that other folks Cm 2 get, but I think most of it's just grotesque. I don't C power or awesome impact, or even comedy. Now Motorhead I can appreciate just 4 laffs....
Older Jazz -- OK, I'm an idiot. Jazz w/o amplification bores me. I just drift off. I can't find a center or a melody 2 hang on2. Byebye John Coltrane, seeya early Miles Davis. Thelonious Monk? Louis Armstrong? (Which leads us 2....)
Jazz-Rock -- The same, only moreso, & with amplification. Tho I haven't given up on Weather Report yet (their live "Bahia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley is AMAZING). & I haven't completely bailed on the Mahavishnu Orchestra yet, tho my effort 2 treat them like King Crimson w/o tunes hasn't paid-off so far. Return to Forever Cms mostly like a waste of talent....
Early Roxy Music -- The earliest I get hooked is w/ the supersonic rush of "The Thrill of It All." 4 some reason, I've always found their later, smoother stuff 2 B better, stronger tho mellower. But mayB it's the obvious outrage of summa the early stuff that goes right thru me. I've always thot "Do the Strand" is either hilarious or horrifying, still not sure which....
Soft Machine -- THIRD is hamstrung by the primitive 1970 recording technology & a muddy mix (I think). But "Slightly All the Time" & "Out-Bloody-Rageous" have some occasionally intresting things going on NEway. On the little bit else I've heard, clearer production woulda helped. I wanted 2 like these guys....

OTHER BLANK SPOTS:
Bruce Springsteen -- I'm the only guy I know who bot "Born to Run" when it 1st came out as a 45. & I love "Rosalita." But I've never heard a single album all the way thru, & tho I admired NEBRASKA as a concept, I couldn't actually listen 2 it....
Velvet Underground -- "All Tomorrow's Parties" is great, & I still think it would sound perfect on an oldies station following-up something like the Byrds' "Eight Miles High." But I couldn't hear NEthing else....
T. Rex -- Bot his/their 20TH CENTURY BOY best-of a few yrs back & couldn't hear NEthing other than "Bang A Gong (Get it On)" (which 4 me died from overplay quite awhile ago), & "Raw Ramp" (mainly 4 Flo & Eddie's backing vocals). & some of it's just silly!
Elvis Costello -- "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding" is AMAZING! But I've never heard NEthing else that grabbed me, & I've never heard all that much....
Early Rod Stewart -- Summa his early stuff's great, I'm sure we all know it: "Handbags and Gladrags" (which I didn't hear 'til about 2002, my girlfriend turned me on 2 it), "You Wear it Well," "Maggie May" -- but I'm told there's lots more pre-'75 stuff I should hear & I've never got10 2 it....
Later Yes -- TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, RELAYER & TORMATO have (2 me) 1 1/2way-Dcent song among them. After the rather-good GOING FOR THE ONE I pretty much gave up, Xcept 4 a coupla trax from 90125 ("Leave It" & "Changes")....
Prince -- Only know the hits & an occasional Xcellent album track (the pretty "Sometimes it Snows in April," "Anotherloverholeinyohead"). But who can keep up w/ him?
ELP -- Ghod knows I should love these guys, but I can only take so much of their overbearing egos. TARKUS is up there w/ TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS 4 Worst Prog-Rock Album Ever, & even their box-set best-of ain't that great. But Ghod knows when they were good they were pretty amazing ("Fanfare for the Common Man" ((long version)), "Karn Evil 9/First Impression"). I should probly 4ce myself 2 listen-2 more....
Nirvana -- Keeping their 1-disc best-of 4 "You Know You're Right," "Man Who Sold the World" & "All Apologies." Tried 2 get in2 their UNPLUGGED LIVE on the strength of these last 2 & wasn't hooked. Remember at the time I didn't get their normally-churning gtrs & screaming vocals....
Lou Reed -- Have heard VERY little. "I Love You Suzanne" was almost normal. My ignorance is really coming thru here....
Ramones -- "Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Wanna be Sedated," the marvelous "I Just Wanna Have Something to Do," that's about it. Pretty great, summa this. But I never heard enuf 2 make me a fan, I guess. & now everybody wears Ramones T-shirts, & last nite I hadda guy walk in2 the store who looked just like Joey....
Clash -- "Train in Vain (Stand By Me)," "This is Radio Clash" were both pretty good. But I never had the $$$ 4 their (back-then) cheap multi-album sets. & now...?
Sex Pistols -- "God Save the Queen" is a classic (& I still think Green Day's "Holiday" sounds just like it). But the rest...?
Most Punk -- I did not get.
Later Pretenders -- I loved Chrissie Hynde. Her/their 1st album was THE album that got me thru 1980 alive. But I don't know what she's bn doing since about 1986....
British Folk -- I know Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Pentangle, Incredible String Band, Donovan, Nick Drake, The Pogues. But a lotta the rest I know only by reputation. Never heard NE Richard Thompson, John Martyn, Sandy Denny solo, etc.
U.S. Folk -- Ditto w/ Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Judy Collins, lotsa others....
Early Pink Floyd -- Xcept 4 the live version of "Astronome Domine" on UMMAGUMMA, I've gotta big blank spot from "Jugband Blues" until "One of These Days" & "Echoes." Have also heard very little of their post-Roger Waters stuff, tho "High Hopes" is pretty brilliant....
Later U2 -- Don't know what they've bn doing since about 1989. "Beautiful Day" was great, & I thot "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" was the best thing they'd done in YEARS -- Bcos it sounded like Old U2....
The Doors -- There MUST B more 2 these guys than the cheezy organ & Jim Morrison's Perry-Como-like crooning....
Deep Purple -- Love their 2 early hits, "Hush" & "Kentucky Woman," & "Highway Star" is a freakin' classic. But is that all?
Tom Petty -- Has 1 great song, "Even the Losers." Everything else he did, the Byrds did 10 2 15 yrs earlier. & they didn't whine.
Jefferson Airplane -- Sure, their 2 big hits & the classic album trax, "Good Shepherd," "Crown of Creation," "We Could Be Together," "Volunteers," "Mexico." & then...?
American singer-songwriters of the '70s -- Carole King, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell R all OK 4 awhile, then they get dull. Taylor has mayB 3 great songs. Mitchell has mayB 2. Same w/ Browne. King was always a great songwriter, tho.
Paul Simon -- Speaking of which.... Always liked his up-tempo stuff ("You Can Call Me Al," "Me and Julio," "Kodachrome"), but not sure what he's bn doin since the mid-'80s, & I couldn't even get thru GRACELAND....
Blue Oyster Cult -- I know the hits, & AGENTS OF FORTUNE has some great stuff on it. But the rest...? (I'm STILL trying 2 figure-out the title of the long, lyrical, gtr&keyboard-based ballad they played when I saw them in Boise, Idaho, in 1979 -- I haven't found it on NE of their albums yet....)
Squeeze -- ARGYBARGY's pretty great, & I keep EAST SIDE STORY mainly 4 "In Quintessence." But I got no idea where 2 start w/ the rest of their lengthy discography....
Early Genesis -- Never liked Peter Gabriel's voice all that much. & I stopped listening w/ INVISIBLE TOUCH....
Early Fleetwood Mac -- I'm not much've a blues fan (so there goes NE1 from the British Blues boom of the '60s), but hearing summa the old trax on Mac's 25 YEARS/THE CHAIN box-set was something of a revelation. Xcept 4 "Oh Well" & "The Green Manalishi," they're still a big blank 4 me up until MYSTERY TO ME....
Mott the Hoople -- Xcept 4 "All the Young Dudes" & all of MOTT, I've heard nothing else by these coulda-bn-contenders....
Jethro Tull -- I'm pretty solid on their Middle Period, sketchy on their early stuff, & have heard nothing since the fairly-awful A. I played A PASSION PLAY a few yrs back & was shocked by how dull it was. & I useta LOVE these guys....
Stevie Wonder -- Know mosta the hits & a few album trax, tho nothing since about 1986....
Motown/Atlantic/'60s R&B -- Well, I know a lotta the hits & love most of 'em....
Psychedelia -- Byond the obvious hit stuff, I ain't heard much....
Lotsa Country -- I have my faves of course, mostly women: Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, some Wynonna, some Tricia Yearwood, & I like a lotta the rockier stuff. But most of it goes right thru me.
NEthing after 1990 -- With a few Xceptions. I know enuf about Nirvana, INXS, Keane, Fleet Foxes, Coldplay, Bare Naked Ladies, Alanis Morrisette, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Jordin Sparks. But who else is good who's fairly recent? Suggestions?
...By now it should B obvious why I so often write about off-the-wall art-rock bands or never-heard singles. So if somebody in this list rings bells w/ U as Bing brilliant but overlooked by me, drop me a line & tell me why. Or send yr kind donations 2.... (...lost in transmission....)

4 comments:

rastronomicals said...

A post with many possible points of comment, as I'm sure you know.

My immediate reaction was to write something like 'STOP whatever you're doing and buy Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain this very instant . . .'

But reading through, if you're unsure about Mahavishnu and unsure about the Soft Machine, maybe you WOULDN'T think that "The True Wheel" was just this side of the Godhead, as I do.

So I'm gonna step back a second. I'm thinking, OK, Tad doesn't get the punk, doesn't get the metal, doesn't get the noise, so what now?

Well of course, first off, maybe it's nothing now. Maybe the best approach is to simply keep listening to Caravan and Badfinger, nothing wrong with that.

But if you're determined to give some of this stuff another try, maybe what you've been lacking is the proper *strategy*

If you're trying to approach the punk and the metal and the noise, if you're trying to figure out what unites them, you might conclude that they all look *away* from melody as an underlying foundation.

With punk and thrash-metal and their ilk, speed is more important than melody. With doom-metal and noise (and ambient, too, since we're there) it's all about texture.

Simply put, if you're listening to White Light White Heat and find it lacking because you don't find it melodic enough, you're using the wrong perspective anyway. Treat the noise from "Lady Godiva's Operation" or "Sister Ray" as the blanket it is. Feel its texture and allow it to enfold you. Instead of worrying about any one note and its relationship to the last one a half-second ago, or the next one a quarter-second from now, step back and see how the texture shifts over larger units of time. Eno recognized that metal and ambient were when they'd stripped off their dresses sisters, and the same is true for noise rock.

it goes similar for punk and that other brand of metal which came from it: since it's all about speed, don't worry so much about what's happening now, try to approach the music in terms of where it's going. The best punk and speedmetal has a sense of inevitability about it; when you're immersed most totally, you achieve an almost intuitive sense of its ultimate direction.

I'm exaggerating of course. No song anywhere (or at least none I'll like) can totally ignore melody. But what these other genres do is ignore its primacy. If you can find yourself able to do the same, perhaps your second listens to the Pistols or Wire or Sonic Youth or Metallica or even Soft Machine's Third (although on that one the noise is just window dressing to the all-ruling melodicism at its core) will be more sympathetic.

As far as something of this century I can recommend that's not too weird, how about Arctic Monkeys? They remind me of nothing else but The Faces ca. 1975. It certainly doesn't get any more British than this, and they've got that winning snarky attitude down pat. Not all songs make the grade, but the ones that do are spot on. Try "Fake Tales of San Francisco" to start: it's what I did.

A good emo band is Panic! at the Disco. Cleverness to exceed even Arctic Monkeys, and an attitude to match them. Again 2 out of 3 songs end up scoring, but ahh! that 67%!

Spoken of on my site in the past, but mentioned again here are The Mercury Program. They are not without their noisier moments, but the core is easy to listen to, and in a sense Easy Listening. Melanie shares my fandom for them, and that says something, as she's mostly into Pacific Jazz and Exotica. . . .

tad said...

R: Thanx 4 the advice, seriously. Eno is 1 of those folks I've Always Wanted 2 Get 2, But....
I CAN B overwhelmed & sucked-in by impact & flow & inevitability & noise, but I havta have something 2 hang on2 1st....
& I actually have some NEW stuff in the house (something from THIS YR even) that I will B listening-2 & reporting-on here, eventually.
Part of the reason I read yr site & others is 2 C what's hit other people hard that I might've overlooked in the past, & I often follow others' recommendations. But I'm NEthing BUT methodical in my investigations -- never seriously listened-2 the Faces either, tho what I've heard I've liked. I might like them just 4 their drunken sloppiness....
Thanx 4 the words of wisdom. -- TAD.

tad said...

BTW, R: Can I note the deep thoughtfulness that Cms 2 go in2 everything U post, whether it's an essay on yr own site or a reply 2 something I've raved about here. U always Cm 2 have thot deeply B4 writing, & I think it's pretty neat.
Since I tend 2 take all this stuff 2 Seriously, I tend 2 try 2 make feeble jokes & mangle the language even when I'm trying 2 B serious. About the only time I write in Real English these days is if I'm really angry, or if the subject absolutely requires a straight face.
What I mean is, yr sincerity makes me feel kinda silly about joking around & blowing stuff off so much. I AM trying 2 have fun here, & I DO try 2 do my homework -- this stuff means a lot 2 me, just 2 B able 2 communicate & know there's a few folks out there reading it.... U've given me a lot 2 think about.
& now I'll also B looking 4 Eno's TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN.... -- TAD.

Matt said...

If you want input on these you probably should have broken this into a couple of posts. I have no idea where to begin! In fact I don't even have time to begin right now. I will say that several of the artists you have listed are my all-time favorites (Jethro Tull and early Genesis are #1 and #2 in fact) but it still took me a while getting into some of their stuff, even the so-called classics. I'll see if I can say something more substantial later, but yikes!