The Cure – The Hanging Garden

A recording that has kept making its way into the back of my mind over the last several months has been The Cure’s The Hanging Garden.  It is both atmospheric and exciting.  Driving bass and a great receptive drum part create a giant foundation for the song, while other things come in and out of the mix.  It sounds insane, while at the same time being a piece of work that is clearly done by people that know how to use the studio as an instrument itself.  It is such an interesting and unique piece of work.  Even The Cure, who came close with excellent songs like Burn and Bloodflowers, never did anything quite like it.  The whole record it is off of, Pornography, is a dark masterpiece, but The Hanging Garden is extremely accessible, despite the menace of the piece, in a way that some of the rest of the record is not.  Unlike a lot of indie music there is a bigness to this song.  Yet, unlike a lot of rock there is a true strangeness as well.  It’s emerged over the last year as one of my favorite recordings.  Check it out.  Hopefully it will inspire you to dive deeper.

Bryan Ferry – As Time Goes By

Usually when a modern artist decides to record a collection of standards it is a recipe for disaster.  I love Rod Stewart, even cheesy Rod Stewart, but I wouldn’t go near his American Songbook series in a bio suit.  Usually these kind of collections either mean the artist has reached an artistic nadir.  Even if you take these collections out of the context of an artist’s recording career, these albums are pointless exercises where superior material becomes watered down dreck.  I know that sometimes they sell like hotcakes, as we have whole TV shows in which future cruise ship singers try their hands from time to time at older material, but this just reinforces my belief that our culture is going to hell in a hand basket.

So it is with total surprise that I find that I really enjoy Bryan Ferry’s collection of standards, As Time Goes By.  Part of it might be that Ferry has always been partly an art project.  As a former art student and teacher Ferry no doubt has an eye for detail.  It seems like he has a genuine love for this material and he has found a sympathetic group of musicians that don’t ham it up too much.  Even when there are strings, it seems like they are arranged as part of movies from the era between the World Wars.  He also never over sings in the way that so many modern singers do.  Part of that is because he can’t; Ferry has never had a tremendous range, but this works in his favor.  It seems as if he is in the songs, not gesticulating widely on top of them.  Ferry, like Tom Waits, but in a completely different way, has always had one foot in the past.  While Waits recalls a certain prewar World War II rural violence, Ferry has taken elements from old movie stars.  Although this album is a minor addition to his catalog, it is a charming addition.

I like music for all occasions.  I find that if I play this album early in the morning, before I have had my coffee, when a loud snare fire might make me bite someone’s throat out like a vampire, or late at night, as one day bleeds into the next, this album creates just the right amount of stimulation.  It helps to think, without overwhelming one.  It becomes part of the environment, making my surroundings just a little more haunted and beautiful before I put it on.

Wavves x Cloud Nothings – Come Down

Looking through records, as always, and hoping something catches my ear, I heard this collaboration between Wavves and Cloud Nothings, Come Down.  It’s a lo-fi pop punk song that has just the right combination of extremely catchy melody and raw production.  There’s always a part of me, and I grew up on music like this, that is skeptical when a band (or bands) chooses to sound this ragged, questioning if it is just a pose.  But when it feels this right it is time to shut off the intellect and just go with it.  I also like the art design of the cover, which like the music appears thrown together, but is quite catchy.

Half Awake In a Fake Empire

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let’s not try to figure out everything at once
Its hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

I’ve been listening to The National’s album Boxer as it was suggested to me by a friend.  Knowing what little I know about The National, being an indie band from New York, you could see the song as a critique of hipster culture, or one of those songs that is about the age when partying starts to lose its luster.  However, I couldn’t help but think of American exceptionalism while listening to it. Although there have been a couple big wins for sanity in the last week, we still are a country that has an absurd divide between rich and poor.  We are still poisoning the only earth we are ever going to have.  Yet we constantly distract ourselves with a mainstream culture that is largely a wasteland, a senseless circle jerk.  Fame without talent or accomplishment, facts without context, people that talk constantly and yet seem to say nothing.  What good is wealth if it is created at the expense of others?  What good is fame if it is not married with any value outside of itself?  What good is knowledge if it is just the accumulation of board game trivia answers, a collection of the useless?  What point is speaking if it is only to spread misinformation?  Who cares how someone looks if their brain is full of spiders?  “We’re half awake in a fake empire…”

2004 Paul Westerberg Interview / Finally Here Once Silences the Van

Paul Westerberg Interview 2004

Paul Westerberg has always been one of my favorite songwriters.  One thing that often gets lost in the mainstream press, who are much more content telling Replacements drinking stories, is how great of a melody writer he is.  In fact I would put him up as one of America’s greatest melody writers since the beginning of rock n roll.  I mean other than someone like Brian Wilson, there aren’t many people that have written as many great melodies as he has.  But unlike a lot of people that can write great melodies, his songs also often have a grittiness to them.  His songs aren’t antiseptic sounding, nor overly sweet.  It is that contrast that makes him stand out.  You often get one or the other, but rarely both.  His songs feel lived in and true, while at the same time being highly memorable.  Even his more polished major label recordings have Kenny Jones (Faces) like drums on them and Westerberg’s rumpled sandpaper vocals.

I remember one time in the Shinyribs van I put the above song on, Finally Here Once, and about 10 seconds into the song the van went completely silent.  Afterwards everyone remarked on what a great song it was.  It’s an extremely lo-fi recording, so people weren’t getting off on some kind of sonic deal.  It’s just great writing.

Anyway, I saw that his website put the above 2004 interview on it, which I had read at the time, but found interesting going back to.

A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop

The new Neil Young + Promise of the Real album, The Monsanto Years, is out now.  This is a protest album Neil recorded with Willie Nelson’s sons, among others.  I haven’t heard the album yet, so I can’t comment on it.  Neil’s Living With War is one of my favorite political albums of all time.  I like political music in general.  Even if I don’t agree with every point an artist makes, I like when people aren’t afraid to go out on a limb.  There is some good fun to be had out there!

Devil’s Angels

Danzig Talks Covers Record

In the above Rolling Stone article Glenn Danzig announces that his long awaited covers album will be coming out in late July/early August.  The album will be called Skeletons.  I have been waiting for this to come out ever since I heard the above song Devil’s Angels, which sounds as much like a Misfits song as anything he has released since being in that band.