Small Films

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.

Confessions On a Barstool

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.

Deeper Water Live

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!  

This is Pil Review

image

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. 

Favorite Tracks:
One Drop
Deeper Water
Human
Out of the Woods

Pet Cemetery Video

I’ve got to jet out to a rehearsal.  In the meantime, in honor of Halloween approaching, here is the Ramones video for Pet Cemetery.  I learned how to play guitar by playing along to Ramones records.  This movie used to also scare the bejesus out of me as a kid.  Alas, now I would gladly dance with the awoken dead of Pet Cemetery if it came between that and seeing Ted Cruz’s face one more time.

Invest In What You Value

record

I just read that record sales are down 14% this year.  It is a shame, because this has actually been a year when a fair amount of good to great records have been released.  I don’t understand, especially in a capitalist system, why people don’t understand the idea that artists near to be paid for their work.  I mean I think creative people will create no matter how much money they are making.  However, if people are investing in their work they will create more and possibly do more groundbreaking work, as making records takes money.  Making records that really push the boundaries of what recorded sound can do really takes money!  The more you stream or steal, the more you are just going to end up with pop being just elevator music.  Music that sounds good in car commercials.  Those that make car commercial music are rewarded more than those that make great albums.  How sad is that?!!!  So if you want there to be a large amount of decent music being made, invest in artists.  That is the deal, someone makes something you like that inspires you, spend ten dollars investing in their work.  Then there is the possibility that they will make something else that inspires you.  That might not always be the case, but anything you invest in has a slight amount of risk involved.  In Canada artists often get grants from the government when they start out.  That is not going to happen here, not for a long time if ever, in the world of pop music anyway.  We need individuals to step up to the plate.  Stealing is stealing anyway you cut it, and streaming isn’t paying out like selling records is yet.  So there you go, you know who you are?  If you value something make a small investment in something.  It will lead to more things that you value.

Jimmy Cliff World Upside Down

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.