Archive for the ‘X-Ray Spex’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FOALS-Antidotes (2008).

This CD had been getting a lot of buzz just before I ordered it. And then, the day after I ordered it I saw a review that really trashed the record. Uh oh, I thought.

But then I played it. Aside from the cover, which I can’t stand, there’s nothing I dislike about the disc. Immediately, I thought it sounded like a cross between King Crimson and Gang of Four. And then I heard more sax and had to add X-Ray Spex in for good measure.

The guitar lines as the disc opens sound so much like they could be King Crimson song…and this continues throughout the record…and then when the rhythm guitars come in you think, oh, Gang of Four (or the Futureheads if you must). And then you hear them together and it blows your mind a little bit.

For those of you who live in the twenty first century, the CD probably sounds closest to Modest Mouse: angular guitars, somewhat shouty vocals, but they don’t have the fluidity that Modest Mouse has. Not that that’s a complaint, just an observation. I’ve listened to this CD a bunch of times now, and I don’t dislike anything on it. Each listen brings out someone new that I hear. One of the reviews I read suggested that they used to a more prog rock band, but were giving up that aspect of their music. And yet, if you reference King Crimson, it’s impossible to think you’ve given up prog rock. I don’t know what The Foals describe their music as, and it is totally not for everybody, but I think it’s pretty wonderful.

[WRITTEN: Some time in the late 1990s] Complex Sentence.

In my previous post (Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog) I said that I had written a short story about diagramming sentences. I took some creative writing classes a decade or so ago, when I had a lot of free time. I churned out quite a few stories, and then hit the wall that is job, family and kids. Sadly, I don’t have exact dates for when I wrote these stories (what kind of writer doesn’t keep track of when the stories were written for pity’s sake). But maybe if I can ever hack into more poor old Macintosh and uncover the original files it will give me some idea of their origin.

And so, the critic exposes himself to the critics. (more…)


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Every time I listen to this record I think I’m not going to like it, and that is because I really don’t like the first song. I’ve never had a record that rubbed me so badly off the bat and then turned out to be such a fulfilling record overall.

I first heard PGMG when they first came out. I knew their band name from the Smiths’ song, so I had to see what they were about. But I was surprised to hear how unSmithsy they were. Their first two albums were great and then they seemed to go away for a while. When Elan Vital came out I’d read a few mixed reviews of it and it took me ages to pick it up. And, then, as I said, that first song…. I’m not sure what it is about the song that rubs me the wrong way. In and of itself it’s a very generic sounding song, but after listening to the rest of the album I think I figured out what i don’t like about song one.

The rest of the album is very sparse, almost angular, and yet they maintain an incredibly catchy aspect. There’s always at least one interesting part of every song. “Pyrite Pedestal” reminds one of later Lush, but only in the vocals, because Lush has always been kind of smooth and, well, lush. This song keeps the attitude of Lush, but sticks in a very simple melody line and instruments. The simplicity really highlights all of the aspects of the song…nothing is lost. And this is true for the rest of the songs as well. Each instrument, each vocal line, everything is so crisp, it really stands out.

As I’m reliving the record I’m realizing why it’s so hard to describe. It’s because although every song sounds like PGMG, the vocals are very strong and consistent and there’s a punk edge to everything, the styles of the songs vary greatly within the record. “Domino” is practically disco (but angry disco). And yet overall they remind me of X-Ray Spex. Andrea Zollo’s voice is less shrieky and much prettier than Poly Styrene’s and they are clearly post-grunge in their sensibilities, but they hearken back to the 1970s punk scene quite clearly.

Two other things that have changed in the band since their first two great albums: they’d added a keyboardist, who contributes really nice touches, and even carries one of the songs…but the keyboards never “soften” the songs. And, they use horns from time to time. I don’t recall if they did before but it does stand out in the mix now. (They are used to their detriment on the last song however. The main body of the song is quite good, but then it degenerates into a weird 4 minute keyboard and horn jam session. It’s as lame as it sounds. I don’t know what they were thinking ending their album like that.)

Oh, and so why don’t I like the first song? The whole album is clear sounding and immediate. Each song, with its differing styles and sounds is so unique. However, the first song sounds like they threw all of these elements together. There’s so much going on that it turns the whole song into mush. It sounds like a generic 90’s alternative song with layers of noise. But, don’t let that fool you. Skip track one and enjoy the awesome songs of Elan Vital

[READ: February 2008] Comedy By the Numbers.

A sample chapter of this book came with McSweeney’s 23. It was pretty funny so I bought the book. This is one of those strange books that McSweeney’s excels at: It seems like a joke and yet it is quite serious, except when it’s funny. So the premise is that this is a list of 169 comedy tropes that, once you master, will make you funny.


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