Some weeks, there’s a million new arrivals. Others, there are Wire reissues. Both are great!
…..pick of the week…..
Wire: Pink Flag (Pink Flag) LP
Wire’s first three albums need no introduction. They are the three classic albums on which Wire’s reputation is based. Moreover, they are the recordings that minted the post-punk form. This was adopted by other bands, but Wire were there first. It has been a number of years since these albums were readily available. The aim with these new vinyl and CD releases is to approximate the original statements as closely as possible, but with remastered audio. The vinyl releases have the same covers and inners as the originals (minus the Harvest logo). The digipack CDs have identical track listings to their vinyl counterparts. These versions should be considered Wire’s classic 1970s albums, pure and undiluted. Usually contextualized against a backdrop of two years of the growing cultural importance of punk rock—Wire’s debut Pink Flag, released in December 1977 on EMI’s progressive label Harvest was in fact was something “other.” To the keen cultural commentator, the timing and label of it’s release will register two essential facts about it. Firstly, too late (a year after the Pistol’s debut release) to be part of UK punk’s first flush and secondly that the band were signaling something beyond punk by their choice of label. Further investigation would reveal twenty-one tracks, some of them clocking in at well under a minute and covering a range of tempi well beyond the buzzsaw rockabilly that had become, even by the second half of 1977, punk’s staple.
Crooked Fingers: Red Devil Dawn (Merge) LP
Love songs abound on 2003’s Red Devil Dawn, but most of the love is dead or dying or at least dirty. That makes sense: Just a few years after his split with indie stalwarts Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann had forcefully forged a new identity and sound with Crooked Fingers, and he quickly amassed a catalog of gorgeous, poetic songs about weary losers and broken lives. This is the album that gave their desperation its most pointed, perfectly detailed homes. Red Devil Dawn was the third Crooked Fingers album inside of four years, and in hindsight – at 15 years old, it’s a god damn teenager now – it feels like both the pinnacle and the end of Phase One. Bachmann had perfected the art of darkness, of finding his characters and stories in solitude and then adding or subtracting sounds and players to make them come alive. Never had they seemed more personal or more vulnerable than on Red Devil Dawn, from the ornery argument on “You Threw a Spark” to the heartbreaking album closer “Carrion Doves,” which posits that “what can make us one can make us come undone.” But the album – being issued on vinyl for the first time ever – also nudges open the door to where Bachmann would take Crooked Fingers next. “Sweet Marie” adds jaunty horns to a withering-but-somehow-sweet story about infidelity, and also manages to include the line “I swear I’m gonna set that pussy bastard straight.” And elsewhere, there’s more hope in the darkness than ever, though it can be hard to recognize at first. But at the end of “Disappear,” he sums up both Crooked Fingers’ past and its future: “There’s beauty in an ugly thing, redemption in demise.” That’s Red Devil Dawn writ small and simple: It finds the specks of light in the darkest rooms, and spins the whole picture into a gorgeous whole.
File Under: Indie Rock
Florence & The Machine: High As Hope (Universal) LP
In tomorrow… High As Hope, Florence + the Machine’s hugely-anticipated fourth studio album, is the sound of an artist who appears more certain than ever of herself. “It’s always a work in progress, and I definitely don’t have everything figured out,” bandleader Florence Welch notes. “But this feels like quite a pure expression of who I am now, as an artist, and an honest one. I’m just more comfortable with who I am.” Florence writes about her teens and twenties with a renewed, more mature perspective: of growing up in South London, of family, relationships and art itself. “There’s a lot of love in this record, loneliness too, but a lot of love,” she adds. Florence wrote, co-produced (her first time co-producing a Florence + the Machine album) and recorded the majority of High As Hope in solitude, cycling to her studio in Peckham every day. She finished the songs in Los Angeles with her friend and co-producer Emile Haynie, bringing in Kamasi Washington, Sampha, Tobias Jesso Jr, Kelsey Lu and Jamie xx as further collaborators. Florence mixed the record in New York, where the daily view of the skyline – often in stark contrast to the chaos of the wider world – gave the album its title. Discussing lead single “Sky Full Of Song,” Florence says, “This was a song that just fell out of the sky fully formed. Sometimes when you are performing you get so high, it’s hard to know how to come down. There is this feeling of being cracked open, rushing endlessly outwards and upwards, and wanting somebody to hold you still, bring you back to yourself. It’s an incredible, celestial, but somehow lonely feeling.” Follow-up “Hunger” pairs Florence’s intimate, rawly honest lyricism with a broader sense of acceptance, community and joy. “Hunger” is effectively about acknowledging those holes in our psyche that we try to fill with love and hate, obsessions or addictions but you can ultimately only ever satisfy yourself. “This song is about the ways we look for love in things that are perhaps not love, and how attempts to feel less alone can sometimes isolate us more,” says Florence. “I guess I made myself more vulnerable in this song to encourage connection, because perhaps a lot more of us feel this way than we are able to admit. Sometimes when you can’t say it, you can sing it.”
File Under: Rock, Pop
Infinite Music: A Tribute to La Monte Young (Fire) LP
Infinite Music – A Tribute to La Monte Young is a breathtaking live collaboration between Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, Zombie Zombie’s Etienne Jaumet and Celine Wadier, a master of Indian Dhrupad singing and tanpura. Recorded live at Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon in September 2017, the performance is released here on colored vinyl. Young was an inspiration on John Cale and original Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, George Harrison, Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker, Stereolab and the classic Spacemen 3 album Dreamweapon. La Monte’s influence in the hands of this eclectic trio is timeless and beautifully evocative. “I’m not suited for these times but I am suited for the world I created,” La Monte Young once said.
File Under: Experimental, Drone
The Jesus & Mary Chain: 21 Singles (Warner) LP
Exploring a vein mined by their heroes The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, Glasgow, Scotland-based alt-rock cult heroes The Jesus & Mary Chain were the link between pure pop and white noise in the ’80s and ’90s. An inspiration to the next generation of subversives from My Bloody Valentine to Dinosaur Jr. to The Chemical Brothers, the group was forged in 1984 and issued their seminal debut single “Upside Down” (Creation) later that year. In 1985, the band connected with Blanco Y Negro/Warner Bros. and released the smash single “You Trip Me Up” and superlative debut album, Psychocandy. More sonic pop experiments followed with Darklands (1987), Automatic (1989), Honey’s Dead (1992), Stoned & Dethroned (1994), and Munki (1998). Available on vinyl for the very first time, their classic 2002 compilation 21 Singles gathers some of the band’s most beloved sides including the aforementioned “Upside Down” and “You Trip Me Up,” plus “April Skies,” “Darklands” and “Just Like Honey.”
File Under: Rock
Pharaoh Overlord: Zero (Hydra Head) LP
Pharaoh Overlord steer an exceedingly singular course on Zero. Augmented by Antti Boman (Demilich) and Hans Joachim Irmler (Faust), the psychedelic supergroup (consisting of members from Circle) have taken their ouvre to a whole new psychiatric plateau on their ninth studio album. Libido-driven arithmetics do not apply on these aberrant tracks. Zero provides an offbeat rock and roll implosion, with its sonic realm contorting inwards like a sapient voice muffled by the gentle void of cyberspace. What the album really has to offer more than anything is exposure to genuine ingenuity.
File Under: Metal, Psych, Krautrock
Prefuse 73: Sacrifices(Lex) LP
Following his detour into fractured, kaleidoscopic hip-hop with Fudge, electronic music pioneer Prefuse 73 has become progressively interested in injecting a sense of space into his characteristically complex productions. The resultant 17-track collection is akin to watching an old photograph deteriorate in one’s hands, as otherwise dense beats disintegrate into airy expanses of emotionally resonant electronics. Its effect is not unlike attempting to recall a murky memory of a dream of Guillermo Scott Herren’s earliest works, imbibed with an increased interest in the subtlety of contemporary minimalism.
File Under: Hip Hop, Electronic
Lalo Shifrin: Bullitt OST (Warner) LP
A high-speed car chase between a Dodge Charger and a Ford Mustang, with super-cop Bullitt at the wheel, who forces the hitman off the road and into a petrol station, which explodes and incinerates him. Prior to that, harsh clashes of metal, hubcaps flying all over the place, and the chief character Steve McQueen, who grimly changes gears and hurtles through the streets of San Francisco, wheels screaming and rubber burning. That was how Hollywood staged one of the longest and most dramatic car chases, long before the days of the Anti-Blocking-System and Anti-Slide-Control. Very up-to-date and just as exciting as the screenplay to this all-time classic 1968 thriller is the music Lalo Schifrin wrote for the film, which embeds the characters, places and events in a musical context. For example, “Bullitt” – the metrically angular main theme portrays a mysterious, cool character who sums up a situation with keen alertness and then makes his attack with the speed of lightning. Initially the music travels through easy-going Latin terrain. But gradually the rhythmic texture changes and takes a rougher path, with clicks, knocks and hammering. Legendary flute lines create a compensatory placidness with airy clouds floating above the sharp mix. A really special track is “Shifting Gears” where you can listen to Schifrin tuning the car, how he manipulates a jammed springy bossa to take on the sound of clean, smooth-running rock.
File Under: OST
Wire: Chairs Missing (Pink Flag) LP
Wire’s first three albums need no introduction. They are the three classic albums on which Wire’s reputation is based. Moreover, they are the recordings that minted the post-punk form. This was adopted by other bands, but Wire were there first. It has been a number of years since these albums were readily available. The aim with these new vinyl and CD releases is to approximate the original statements as closely as possible, but with remastered audio. The vinyl releases have the same covers and inners as the originals (minus the Harvest logo). The digipack CDs have identical track listings to their vinyl counterparts. These versions should be considered Wire’s classic 1970s albums, pure and undiluted. 1978’s Chairs Missing represented perhaps the biggest conceptual leap made during this period of Wire and was widely misunderstood at the time yet it remains, to the band and production crew Wire’s favorite ’70s album. If Pink Flag proposed an almost cut and paste approach to deconstructing rock history, Chairs Missing proposed something more radical, a definite futurism with much less influence from it’s antecedents. Chairs Missing was at once more stark and more lush than it’s predecessor and has exerted it’s own influence on the course of cultural history, having laid down one of the earliest (if not the earliest) blueprints for the genuinely post-punk aesthetic.
Wire: 154 (Pink Flag) LP
Wire’s first three albums need no introduction. They are the three classic albums on which Wire’s reputation is based. Moreover, they are the recordings that minted the post-punk form. This was adopted by other bands, but Wire were there first. It has been a number of years since these albums were readily available. The aim with these new vinyl and CD releases is to approximate the original statements as closely as possible, but with remastered audio. The vinyl releases have the same covers and inners as the originals (minus the Harvest logo). The digipack CDs have identical track listings to their vinyl counterparts. These versions should be considered Wire’s classic 1970s albums, pure and undiluted. 1979’s 154 represented the final tableau in Wire’s Harvest released ’70s triptych and was the first Wire album to be released to a universal set of five star reviews from the British rock weeklies, thus it represented the point when the British “pop culture establishment” publicly recognized Wire’s primacy. “154 makes 95 percent of the competition look feeble” wrote Nick Kent in the NME, “Wire are achieving a lot of things other—and more recognized—names have been striving for” wrote Chris Westwood in Record Mirror (a paper that had slagged off Pink Flag). “The album is a musical tour de force” wrote Jon Savage in Melody Maker. Many said it was the album that Bowie and Eno had failed to make with Lodger (as hinted in the RM review), it was on John Lennon’s playlist. Without a doubt, even if record sales did not bear it out, Wire had “arrived.”
Frank Zappa: Burnt Weeny Sandwich (Zappa) LP
In tomorrow… Frank Zappa’s classic 1970 album Burnt Weeny Sandwich receives a 180g audiophile vinyl repressing, the latest in an ongoing initiative involving the Zappa Family Trust and UMe to lovingly restore Zappa’s iconic catalog. Supervised by the ZFT, the new repressing was specially mastered for this release by Bernie Grundman with all analog production and cut directly from the 1970 1/4″ stereo safety master tape in 2018. Unavailable on vinyl for more than three decades, Zappa last released this on vinyl in 1986 in the rare Old Masters Box Two. The LP, pressed at Pallas in Germany, features the album’s distinctive original cover art by frequent Zappa collaborator Cal Schenkel and includes the original album’s black and white poster, which has never been reproduced in any of the album’s CD editions. Named for one of Zappa’s favorite quick snacks, essentially a hot dog roasted over a flame and stuck between two pieces of bread, Burnt Weeny Sandwich was released in 1970 following Hot Rats. The album was recorded by Zappa and one of the original incarnations of his legendary combo the Mothers of Invention, whose line-up Zappa disbanded just prior to this album’s release. Perhaps suggestive of its gastronomic title, the record is structured like a sandwich: it is book-ended by a pair of doo wop covers of the Four Deuces’ “WPLJ” and Jackie & the Starlites’ “Valarie,” which harks back to Zappa’s earliest musical influences, and filled with an array of stylistically diverse songs that focus on structured and tightly arranged compositions featuring virtuosic performances by Zappa and his expert ensemble. Combining studio material and live recordings, the largely instrumental album includes “Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich,” “Holiday In Berlin Full-Blown,” the two-part “Igor’s Boogie” and the complex, multi-part near 20-minute centerpiece “Little House I Used to Live In.” With portions recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall in June 1969, “the song’s extended improvisations,” Ultimate Classic Rock remarked in their retrospective review, “provided an epic send-off to the beloved Mothers, in all of their eclectic audaciousness under the leadership and in the service of Zappa’s singular vision. The recording even contains a snippet of heated repartee between Zappa and an audience member that spawned his famous critique of all the flower children present: “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform.”
File Under: Rock
Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works (R&S) LP
David Axelrod: Song of Innocence (Now Again) LP
Blonde Redhead: Fake Can Be Just As Good (Touch & Go) LP
Blonde Redhead: Masculine Feminin (Numero) Box
Charles Bradley: Changes (Daptone) LP
Charles Bradley: No Time for Dreaming (Daptone) LP
Bill Callahan: Dream River (Drag City) LP
Nick Cave: Abattoir Blues (Mute) LP
Godspeed You Black Emperor: Lift Your Skinny Fists (Constellation) LP
Billie Holiday: Lady in Satin (Legacy) LP
Jon Hopkins: Singularity (Domino) LP
Jesus & Mary Chain: Psychocandy (Rhino) LP
Kacy & Clayton: Sirens Song (New West) LP
Minor Threat: Out of Step (Dischord) LP
Minor Threat: s/t (Dischord) LP
Morrissey: Viva Hate (Parlophone) LP
Portishead: Dummy (Universal) LP
Portishead: Third (Universal) LP
Serpentwithfeet: soil (Secretly Canadian) LP
Smog: Red Apple Falls (Drag City) LP
Smog: Knock Knock (Drag City) LP
Gillian Welch: Harrow & The Harvest (Acony) LP