Friday, June 24, 2011
Peter Falk died today.
Part of me finds it hard to imagine a universe without Columbo, at the same time part of me, if he's honest thought that your man with the crooked face and a cigar teetering from his lips passed a few years back. That in mind it's a good news/bad news situation. Good news that Peter Falk wasn't in fact dead. Bad news that sadly he is now.
I was never that into Columbo. I mean, no more than any other student bunking off college with nothing else to do in the early/mid 90's, eager to see who this episodes guest star was and at what point our hero would utter those immortal words 'Just one more thing'. My reason for missing Peter will be the film 1979 'In Laws' in which he plays a CIA agent along side Alan Arkin's anxious and out of his depths in-law to be.
It's a great film and despite the name being tainted by a piss-poor remake a few years ago I urge you to watch it if you get chance.
As seems to have become traditional, this has absolutely nothing to do with the record I am reviewing, it's simply what is on my mind at the end of a long and rainy day. I'd like to think I could come up with some clever way of marrying the two together, perhaps ending this review with the words 'Oh and by the way' or suggesting Peter's mac is dirty because of all of the funk raining down on him but I wont. Instead I will move swiftly along and talk about George Clinton and friends.
When did funk fall so spectacularly out of fashion? It's now at the point when it has almost, almost but not quite come back round again full circle.
As soon as I hear the word 'funk' paired with anything I give it a swerve. I have always viewed it as the last refuge of a tired genre. The tie-on ingredient that you might use in an attempt to revive any one of a dozen types of music. 'They' tried to fix Hip-Hop with the funk, they tried to fix metal with the funk, they keep trying to fix House with the funk and what do we have to show for it? Fishbone, Armand Van Helden and Warren G.
It reads like the track-listing for the kind of mix-tape you might play to somebody you wanted dead from over-exposure to average wall-paper paste tasting music.
Despite the word 'funk' bringing to mind a whole list of ugly, sickening images: white people dancing badly, bass guitars played way to high in a Mark King style, ill-advised 70's themed student nights, Bootsy Collins, It's important to remember that before all of that, before Yarbrough and Peoples made he worst song in the history of modern music (Don't Stop The Music), before it became the punch-line in an unfunny joke, there was this...
The first Funkadelic album is a well measured and perfectly balanced exercise in finding out exactly what happens when the energy, soul, rhythm and blues synonymous with Black music clashes with the loud electronic instrumentation more readily associated with psychedelic rock. Reading this back it's an over simplistic summary that is not without it's inaccuracies - Brown (James) had already spoken of 'the funk' and Hendrix had of course been sowing the seeds for this particular sound for a good few years prior. Regardless of this it's a summary that I am happy to go with.
I don't need to talk too much about the result because it's history. Needless to say it worked. 'Funkadelic' is playful, stupid, unexpected and ultimately it rocks as hard as anything being made in 1970. It transcends the constraints of it's genre and is so much more timeless than the P-Funk that Funkadelic evolved into.
Despite this I have a hard time listening to it. Why? Perhaps it's because I have a hard time separating it from the insipid genre that it spawned. It's stupid I know but I really can't put into words how much I fucking hate Yarbrough and Peoples.
In other news I just checked the news, Peter Falk is still dead.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Amongst the chatterings related to this I have heard that the master tapes, missing for decades are haunted and somehow made the woman who found them in her flat jump out of the window in a 'Damien the Omen' style.
I have heard that the the reason for the albums swift removal from the shelves only weeks after it's release was down to similarities between the shit cover and a Clark's (or similar) shoe ad that was running in the press at the time.
I have heard that Simon Finn was in fact part shark and breathed through gills hidden in his neck, beneath his wing tipped collar.
Who really know's what to believe? I do know that pretty much everything else on the 'Mushroom' label is not worth investigating, I also know that Simon can get his 'wail on' with the best of them.
I am also in no doubt that 'Pass The Distance' has earned it's place at the top of most people's 'Great Lost Album' list. It really is exceptional singer songwriter fodder despite the sleeve.
So did I 'get my stupid on' and bid upwards of 250quid for an original copy? I did not. Some guy in Germany put out a very good press on Mayfair records. It has a couple of very nice inserts, the sleeve is good card stock and the printing is really crisp. Each one is hand numbered (unless I dreamt that) and as far as I know it is official.
Quite why Tibbles, wait, do we still call him Tibbles or has that changed? Quite why David Tibet of love 'em or hate 'em neo-folk doomsters Current 93 didn't put out a vinyl version when he re-issued the CD I don't know. It seems nothing short of perverse. Either way, here it is.
It was my mate Simon (not Finn) why turned me on to this. He mentioned it a couple of times in passing and before excitedly buying a 90's bootleg of it from On the Floor Records in Camden. (What's the deal with bootlegs now? Is it suddenly okay to sell them?) Anyway. He said something along the lines of:
'This will be my most significant purchase of the year'.
And I remember thinking, wow, that's a pretty grandiose statement for a record by somebody called Simon Finn with such a ridiculously shit sleeve. But it stuck with me and I did some digging. Listened to some clips on the internet and tracked down a copy.
'Pass The Distance' is a fantastic excursion into hopeless urban bed-sit doom-folk. It's as huge as it is whiney. It's very powerful stuff in a massively negative way.
As most people will tell you the show stopper is 'Jerusalem', the subject matter of the song is obvious and on reading the lyrics you would be forgiven for thinking that Simon (Finn) is one of the Xian brigade, he is not. He is an acid casualty from the Syd Barrett school of fucked. By the end of the song our protagonist is wailing so hard that it sounds like he is about to cry. Couple that sob with some genuinely interesting instrumentation (and the help of David Toop) and you have something well worth devoting time to. Not too much time though because like I say, it's fucking miserable.
I don't know what it is about the Cutty Sark but the name alone makes me want to spit blood. I don't give a fuck if it is the last of the tea-clippers. I cheered when it burnt down.
Before you start, no my ranting isn't due to a particularly stale and obvious school trip to see said 'Sark' back in the 80's, I wasn't punched in the back of the head by the school bully as I studied the portals and the poop deck.
It has never sat well with me. The idea of a pointless be-sailed ship in permanent dry-dock suspended animation. It's like a ship in a bottle without the bottle. What was the point? You weren't allowed to play on it, it didn't go anywhere, it had a stupid fucking name.
'Look at that Sark'
'Yes, isn't it Cutty?'
'Oh yes, it's a very Cutty Sark'.
Luckily, not three minutes away is 'Beehive Records'. Have I ever bought anything from here? No. Does that stop it being a solid stand up record shop? No it does not.
Beehive is an ideal shop if you are just getting into 'the game'. If you have no qualms about owning re-issues then the stock is solid and most of your Kraut, Psyche, 60s Pop, Prog needs will be met at little expense and with comparable ease.
It reminds me of Exotica Records (Portobello Road) circa 1995, before all of the good stuff mysteriously vanished but sadly in this case all of that good stuff, like I say is re-issues. There's a few bits and pieces on the walls and the decor suggests that this might be somewhere to find some truly exciting used stock, but no, not so much.
Even so, I will always stop by if I am in the area, just on the off-chance that the owner has decided to purge his private collection or that some local, newly widowed lady has decided to rid herself of that vinyl weight that hung from her husbands neck for the past fifty years.
Here's to cheery hoping.
In the meantime I will sit grinding my teeth as the Cutty Sark is rebuilt and googling words like 'arson' and 'undetected' whilst dreaming of fun with matches.
Well this was always going to happen.
Yet I still feel moved enough to say a few words. When was the last time you came across a genuine second hand record shop on a suburban side-street? Yes I know it wasn't very good and that they had some kind of basement infestation that suggested death behind the walls but it was still a record shop. Still somewhere to go when that clawing urge comes a calling, that nameless day-terror that urges you to sacrifice potentially fruitful day-light hours in favor of the endless and pointless search. Now it is gone.
Hopefully Mr D.O.C's decision to close his doors forever was to do with spiraling rent, internet based competition and downloading rather than a less than the less than luke-warm review I found myself writing after a fruitless visit sometime last year.
Either way, farewell D.O.C Records and god-speed.
....I wonder if they had a closing down sale? Hope I didn't miss anything.
Something of a departure from my usual blog-fodder this. I have been encouraged to revisit the past recently for a couple of reasons, not least after being described as an 'indie dad'. I sat on that name for a while, mulled it over and whilst it was wildly inaccurate given my usual listening habits it was actually a label I really liked and almost aspired to.
It also made me get a little bit retrospective with my listening habits, caused me to have the likes of Dinosaur Jr on repeat on my Ipod whilst I was out in Asia.
When I got home I realized that I had almost completely erased a huge chunk of my musical learning. There was little to no evidence of my years spent as champion of the US Indie scene (very specifically US. The thought of British indie music leaves me cold, there is something very sallow, pale and unsexy about it. A bit like having sex with a Politics major in a Sheffield bedsit). I counted maybe 20 CDs and half as many records. Given that this was such a focus of my life for such a prolonged time it was almost as if I had deliberately tried to eradicate it's existence.
I suppose part of me did. It's a dead scene I thought, like Beat Happening said the revolution has come and gone. There is nothing sexy about finding a Superchunk album amongst a girl you fancy's record collection anymore. If anything it would just seem a bit like she needed to get on with a spot of well needed Spring cleaning, you might even question her personal hygiene.
And it was while I was thinking about how 'Indie', the indie that I used to know and love was dead and less than relevant that I skipped to the opening track of Harmacy on my Ipod. 'On Fire' is one of the most simple yet perfect singles I can recall hearing. From there I left on the entire album to play through.
Harmacy passed me by when it came out. Fickle as I was in my late teens I walked away from Sebadoh after 'Bubble and Scrape' in search of something more exciting, more obscure guilty of falling in to that old 'if other people have heard of them they aren't cool anymore' trap. Fucked up there then didn't I?
The rest of 'Harmacy' follows the well known Sebadoh blue-print, fast songs, quiet songs, quiet songs with fast bits. That said this outing is much more polished, less lo-fi that what came before it. Well worth a revisit, if you are in the mood for a reminder of a time rich with de-tuned and distorted discovery, a journey into 'electric white boy blues' territory in a boat shaped like a Fender Tweed Deluxe amp with a Lumberjack shirt for a sail.
So what did I do about this glaring hole, this gap in my record collection? Well I had two,no three choices. First off I could have got my 'ebay' on and sought out the original pressings of everything I ever rid myself of - A lengthy and particularly costly exercise, one running well into the mid-thousands. Second, I could do exactly that but instead of being format precious I could go the way of the CD, which is what I did. 32 CD's filling a particularly large hole including 'Half Japanese', 'Unrest' and such are currently winging their way to me courtesy of Amazon.
So what of option three: Walk away from it, admit that there is absolutely no point in trying to fill the gaps or relive the glory years. Concede that you have moved on and that people would point at you if you wore a Mudhoney t-shirt. Well you know what, I would have done but I put Dinosaur Jr's 'Bug' on after 'Harmacy' and it blew the fucking doors off the van.
Maybe this is just temporary but right now I am so Indie it hurts.