Anyone that has read this blog over any amount of time will know that Morrissey is one of my musical heroes. Here is a really interesting article by Kevin Michael Klipfel about Morrissey and existentialism. Although anyone that is a fan of Morrissey will like this article, I think music fans in general and those that are also interested in existentialism will find something to take away here.
I read the following quote by bassist Jah Wobble today:
To be honest I am turned on more by the renaissance that has taken place in USA TV and the TV of some European countries over the last few years. Great narratives , great writing multi layered meanings and fantastic social commentary. It’s almost reinventing the wheel; fiction that documents better than documentaries. Against all odds TV has become the medium that makes most sense in and of this crazy post modern, late stage capitalist, samsaric world that we live in. Music, and its intelligent use is obviously a part of that renaissance, but it isn’t the main thing any more. Right now, like the novel, ‘the album’ format seems a bit moribund. I still hear the odd tune that I like. It’s just that ‘the muse’ seems to be hovering over the likes of HBO script writers rather than musicians right now. That’s where innovative stuff seems to be happening.
You can read the full interview here:
While I would argue that there are still great albums being made, and that there is obviously plenty of bad TV, it does seem that at its best, television is right now where some of the best entertainment is being made. There are many reasons for this. I think that special effects on TV have caught up with films. TV doesn’t face the kind of censoring it once did. Television no longer has a stigma for big name actors. There are many different things in our culture at this place and time which are allowing TV to tell stories better than ever before. However, I would also bet that economics play a large role in this. The television industry has done a much better job of protecting their products than the music industry has. While one certainly shouldn’t need large-scale fame and fortune to commit themselves to an art form, it does help if people can at least make a living at what they are doing. Also, making really good sounding records is not cheap. Even a self financed low-fi record can end up costing a couple grand. I can’t say this enough: If like me you love music, and you wish that more great records were being made, it is important that you buy records from the artists that you like. In a capitalist system we vote with our dollars. If enough of you invest in the artists that you love, you will see those artists make more records and many of those artists will also be given more freedom to create in the studio.
Although I am a giant fan of great pop song craft, lately I have been listening to more dissonant fair like Public Image Ltd. and Rollins Band. Lately I have been listening to some jams that Rollins Band did with free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle. Here is one called Miles Jam #2:
Now I completely understand that there are some people that will just not like this kind of stuff due to the dissonant nature of the music. I’m sure that there are even some of you out there that will think I can’t possibly enjoy this stuff, that I’m just claiming I like it to be different. But honestly, I find this kind of stuff beautiful. (And some of the insane language that Henry Rollins uses I find quite funny in the way that certain parts of Apocalypse Now are funny.) I feel like when musicians play, that they are creating small films. Music is really visual to me.
When you go to a movie theater I sometimes want to see different kinds of films. Sometimes you want to see something that tells a great story. Sometimes you want to see something that is more surreal and visual. Sometimes you want to see a comedy and sometimes a horror movie. Sometimes you want to hear a great three minute pop song and sometimes you want to hear almost thirteen minutes of dissonant metal jazz! Each kind of music creates different imagery in the imagination.
The only kind of music I don’t like is stuff that just creates vanilla imagery. There are a lot of modern country songs that are so bland I feel like my brain is being sucked out of my ears by a vacuum. There is a lot of pop that has been autotuned to where the singers voice has been drained of all personality. Those kinds of things leave my mind empty.
But really if you try to think of music as being visual, so much more of it will open up to you. Some people are painting beautiful landscapes with sound and some people are using dark surrealism. Imagine walking through an art gallery and each kind of music is a different period. Give it a try.
This is a truly beautiful performance of the song Confessions On a Barstool by singer Annie Ross. It is from the Robert Altman movie Short Cuts. I’ve heard the Marianne Faithfull version, which is also wonderful. It is the kind of song you could get lost in for hours. This is the original version. It has left me spellbound and makes me want to check out more of Ross’s singing.
Yesterday I reviewed the newest Public Image Ltd. album, This is Pil (2012). This is Public Image Ltd. performing Deeper Water, from that album, live. Other than that little sequenced part in the background, which is on record as well, the four of them are able to duplicate their studio recording completely live. I have read that they will be working on a brand new album starting this year. Lets hope that the rumor holds true. I love Lu Edmonds guitar playing. John Lydon is still in fine voice at almost 60. Public Image Ltd. isn’t for everyone, but for those of you willing to take the journey, they are one of the true originals.
If you scroll down you will see the very first PIL single, Public Image, down below. It came out a little over 36 years ago!
If you want a recent album that dances to its own strange logic, check out the Public Image Ltd. album This is Pil. It came out in 2012 and I shamefully admit that I am only grasping it in its full glory now. John Lydon’s PIL collective has issued its fair share of ground breaking moments, from Metal Box to The Flowers of Romance. It isn’t as easy to break ground in today’s music business, but this album creates its own aura.
First of all Lydon (Johnny Rotten) is fine form. His lyrics range from direct political attacks to the completely surreal. “England has died”, he sings on one song, while on another he sings, “You wanna see me mushroom.” In a song called Lollipop Opera you have a good idea what kind of mushrooms he is singing. This is festival music. It is meant to challenge and be enjoyed by large groups of people. If Terry Gilliam made a record, well you get the idea. It is subversive and fantastic. David Lynch inspired dread also comes to mind on a few songs. This is the most dread infused PIL album since This is What You Want…This is What You Get.
For the first time in a long time PIL sounds like a band. The rhythm section plays giant dubby parts like early Pil. Lu Edmonds, formerly of The Damned, as well as an earlier incarnation of PIL, plays guitar and a multitude of instruments in the higher frequencies. His playing is truly something to behold. Listen to Deeper Water, maybe the best track on the album, as his playing on that song is magisterial.
This album is not an older band cashing in. It is as vibrant and hungry as any new band out there, pushing the boundaries of what music can do.
If I have any criticism of this album it is only that the first track, which is the weakest, goes on too long. But overall this is a true return to form, that not only doesn’t tarnish the band’s legacy, but expands upon it.
The album sounds mostly live, with a minimum amount of overdubs and studio effects. There is just enough added to each track to add some interesting textures, without taking the focus off of the four piece unit.
This album is not for everyone. Lydon and his cohorts are not afraid to create sounds and dabble in ideas that are uncomfortable at times. However, those that are brave enough to take the journey will find a small piece of uncharted territory to visit.
Out of the Woods
One of the best albums in recent years is Jimmy Cliff’s Rebirth. It is the full package with an artist at the top of their game. It is political, emotional, soulful, and absolutely fearless. The production by Tim Armstrong is note perfect. Somehow Jimmy Cliff can sing as powerfully now as he ever did. This live performance on Jools Holland is stunning. If you get the chance also check out the YouTube clip of him performing One More from this same performance in 2012.