Daily Archives: December 8, 2008

Living Like a Hobo, Like a Spanish Hobo

Sandy Marton “People from Ibiza”

The hair sells it:

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Favorites: Tusk (1979)

tusk

It’s a well-established fact that double albums are rarely worth their weight in vinyl. The potential for unnecessary sprawl, like strip malls reaching their greasy appendages into the bucolic landscape, is too great for most bands to overcome. There are a few interesting exceptions which make it to the top of my list: The Beatles’ “White Album”, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”, Soft Machine’s “Third”, Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”, Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times”, and this, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”, are some that first come to mind.

“Rumours”, this album’s antecedent, is one of the most commercially and critically successful albums ever released, and for good reason: it was the succinct home of eleven great songs. It also captured a love quadrangle falling beautifully apart at the seams. “Tusk” is the sound of a broken band doing whatever it desires, all while flying into the bzzzzzzing cosmos on the white horse. Which should’ve made it suck, but somehow Lindsey Buckingham corralled the creativity of his coked-out-of-their-craniums band mates and created an absolute masterpiece of idiosyncratic song-craft. For as many weird tangents as the album goes on, it still miraculously remains coherent. Much like the emotionally fragmented Beatles circa 1968, Fleetwood Mac managed to come through the dark tunnel of un-love with a set of great tunes. And hey! No “Wild Honey Pie” to be found here!

“Sisters of the Moon” is the band at the peak of what they did best: haunted, emotionally naked, and impeccably-arranged with an absolutely devastating Buckingham solo. “I Know I’m Not Wrong” (one of the most buoyant melodies ever penned by the band), “Never Forget”, “Over and Over”, “Sara”, “Storms” (one of Stevie Nicks’ best ballads), and “Tusk” are other personal favorites in an album full of them. “Tusk”, it should be acknowledged, is one of the absolute weirdest singles to ever reach the charts, built on a simple, but insistent African drum pattern, crazed background chants, chemically aided vocals, minimalist guitar patterns, and backing by the USC marching band.

Unlike the eccentrically dated and bloated “The Wall” (an album that I loved as a teen, but now find almost impossible to wade through in one go), “Tusk” has actually improved with age (there is a reason so many good bands name-check the Mac these days) and is strangely free of the pomp and circumference of so much Big Rock of the ‘70s. There isn’t a single weak track and it’s an absolute blast to listen to from start to finish. If you’ve never given “Tusk” a chance, I have to urge you to do so. Like, now. Hyperbolically-speaking, this is a double-stuffed treat that doesn’t require being a gourmand to swallow.

Also, Camper Van Beethoven recorded a track-for-track remake of this album that’s pretty fun in an amateurish, ramshackle way. And the “Never Forget (Cut Copy Lifelike Remix)” turns an already life-affirming song into an absolutely transcendent stars-are-out-tonight triumph. A coke classic meets a new coke anthem hip enough for your day-glo hoodies, ecstasy rave-ups and quasi-ironic glo-sticks.

“Tusk”:

“Sisters of the Moon”:

Portion of the “Tusk” documentary:

Film Pix: The Atomic Cafe (1982)

The Atomic Cafeis a fascinating documentary pieced together from newsreel clips, military training films, and other forms of American propaganda used during the early years of the Cold War. 

Oh God!  Will I really lose my hair if the Reds drop a nuclear bomb on my doorstep?

And here is why your grandparents remain batshit paranoid about foreign invasions:

Favorites: None So Vile (1996)

none-so-vile

In 1996 the Montreal band Cryptopsy released an absolute masterpiece of roaring technical death metal: “None So Vile”. You will find few albums that pack as much into 32 minutes as this beast does. The drumming and fretwork is some of the most exasperatingly precise in an already pretty exasperating genre. Yet for something this dark and extreme, it’s also pretty damn catchy. It’s at least the catchiest album with a song titled “Orgiastic Disembowelment”. Was that also a Phil Collins song? Opening with a tongue-in-cheek(?) sample from the third “Exorcist” film (the album also ends with a clip from “Army of Darkness”), the band quickly sets to work aurally assaulting (my cat runs out of the room whenever I play Cryptopsy). While metal has, perhaps cynically, become cool for hipsters in the past couple of years after a couple decades worth of scorn (bah!), this album might still beat their skinny jeaned asses into a pulp. As with all death metal, the Cookie Monster vocals are a love it or leave it proposition, but even if this isn’t normally your cup of bile, I’d suggest giving this album a shot. Arguably, this was the album that saved death metal from becoming irrelevant (or one long Cannibal Corpse song) in the mid-90s, and it ranks up there with the best Death and Morbid Angel albums.

The Return of Silence

After a ridiculously long sabbatical, I’ve decided to start blogging again.  So to whom do I grant the privilege of welcoming me back?  Why, Phil Collins of course.