I didn’t know that Beaster, the Sugar EP was recorded at the same time as Copper Blue. Mould’s biography was very helpful in explaining all the details of the timing and styling behind these two recording. As well as how the super pop of Copper Blue could be followed right on the heels with the very very dark EP of Beaster.
I have often thought of this disc as being really dark and insular and Mould confirmed as much—he was really airing out some demons with this disc. But they thought it would be better to put them all in one place rather having them bounce around the poppier full length. What must fans (like myself) have thought to hear this dark album after the pop of Copper Blue. I mean just look at the cover!
I hadn’t listened to this in a long time, so I was surprised by how cool “Come Around” sounds—Mould’s acoustic guitar high in the mix with some appropriately grungey guitars in the background. There are lyrics but for the most part I think of it as just Mould making sounds with his mouth.
It’s followed by the blistering “Tilting.” It’s got superfast drumming with aggressive guitars, it’s like we’re back to the early Hüsker Dü punk sound (with a little more clarity). The drumming is great in this track. The song ends with a preacher being interrupted by dissonance and what sounds like electronic interference. And this song morphs into “Judas Cradle” one of Mould’s darkest songs. It’s very claustrophobic-feeling with echoed vocals, lots of feedback and lots of compression on the overall sound—quite different from the big open sound of Copper Blue. And yet for all of that, the chorus, “Have you seen the Judas Cradle, ah”is really quite catchy.
“JC Auto” has some buzzsaw guitars which make it seem like it’s going to be quite an angry song and yet the bridge is quite welcoming (all this talk of holidays) and then the chorus is amazingly fun to sing along to (Mould always finds pop in anger): “Passing judgment on my life you never really got it right/I can’t believe in anything / I don’t believe in / Do you believe in anything / Do you believe me now… Look like Jesus Christ / act like Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know Here’s Your Jesus Christ I’m Your Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know.” And, as always, I love when Mould repeats his lyrics in the background (the “I Know I Know” surfaces throughout the end of the song).
“Feeling Better” has weird synth blasts that kind of works in the song but sounds out of place on this record. This song flips between really aggressive guitars and a very bright poppy chorus. At 6 minutes this song is a little long (because it’s primarily repeating itself by the end), whereas Judas Cradle and JC Autos’ 6 minutes are well justified.
The final song “Walking Away” is a strange one. It is comprised entirely of organs (church organ it sounds like) with Mould delicately singing “I’m walking away back to you” The end starts to wobble giving a bit of a nauseous feeling but then it’s over. So even in his most downtrodden and questioning, Mould still has the chops to write some great music. Down be put off by the cover, Beaster is a great album.
[READ: March 28, 2013] McSweeney’s #16
After the fairly straightforward Issue 15, McSweeney’s was back to fun with Issue #16. The issue opens up into a kind of quad gatefold which has , in order–a comb, a book, another book and a deck of cards.
The main book contains nine stories, by the typical McSweeney’s roster at the time. The other booklet contains a lengthy story by Ann Beattie. The deck of cards is for Robert Coover’s “Heart Suite” and the comb is a comb. It’s a nice one, although it has never touched my hair.
The MAIN BOOKLET (more…)