Sometimes it’s obvious why a band never really broke out and became something. I’ve learned that any, and I do mean ANY band that’s ever existed will have some sap out there posting youtube videos and running some budget fan website, ready to bemoan the fundamental unfairness of their idol’s obscurity. But for every Nick Drake, Death, Pentagram or Gary Higgins out there, there are a zillion Guns. And after listening to this and researching a bit, in my opinion, the truth is that they just weren’t that good or original or interesting or fill-in-the-blank. I’m not saying they weren’t good or enjoyable or probably part of many folks shared history, just that their obscurity isn’t unfair and shouldn’t shock anyone. But I like these overlooked relics for the stories they tell, the history and the place and time feeling you can get from this sort of left-field find. This certainly wasn’t a failure for the people involved, someone worked hard on this. This was a part of someones life and they poured themselves into it. Not everyone can be the Beatles, but everyone can be interesting. Even if it’s only interesting to some goofball writing on a record collecting blog forty or more years later. Buy it if you find it cheap or at higher prices if it’s sealed, because this was made in 1969 and it is pretty good, ahead of it’s time rock and roll.
What’s not to like here? At first it looks like some Denny, Lyman or Baxter Exotica thing, but it’s more accurate to think of it as a collision of orchestral and Exotica, leaning more towards orchestral. The usual luau standards, such a Little Grass Shack, etc, spun into homogenized easy listening by the guy who gained fame as the Hollywood Bowl’s orchestra leader. But the requisite Hawaiian touches, references and certainly the over-the-top island motif of the artwork, complete with die-cut cover and Polynesian bathing beauty, make this a must-have for either fans of Exotica, bad-good music, or both. I’ve listened to it maybe a half-dozen times in the year that I’ve owned it and enjoyed it each time. Worth owning and not terribly rare or expensive.
I love echoing female vocals, especially over a wall of heavy, psyched-out guitars. Girls on guitars. Girls on bass. Bass that really matters. If Cocteau Twins rocked and were fun. Sonic Youth and Stereolab being serious. A bon-bon, sort of like label-mates Best Coast; so sweet and luscious and ephemeral that it’s almost a guilty pleasure. And like Best Coast, unashamed when it comes to showing their influences. The more I listen to it, the more impressed I am with this record. The musicians involved don’t have a particularly long pedigree, and the tracks may make one think of many other artists (for instance I’ve been trying to avoid actually using the term Shoegaze), but repeated listens vindicate Wait To Pleasure as original and now all I hear is No Joy. And No Joy is actually much heavier than than what most people associate with that odious term. No Joy knows why some people listen to music like this and they are smart enough to spot the excellent moments in each song and focus on developing that. Then when good bones are in, they keep adding interesting layers in the background. Some of it’s hard to spot, in fact, the MP3s of this lose so much detail. I think you don’t really spot any of it until you sit down with the record. Now I have to get their first record and that ep thingy.
I’ve lost patience with comment-section kibitzers who can’t give any reason why BOC “failed” with this record. Them and these idiots who will argue that Music Has The Right is the best and only BOC record they’ll listen to. You’re the same flavor of turd and I just want to throw you both in a wood-chipper. It’s kind of obvious to anyone with range in their taste that Music… is a transitional record. What, you wanted them to make Hi-Scores forever? Shut up. Techno’s dead thank God. Myself? I’m as satisfied as possible after waiting eight-plus years. As you may or may not know, I like my soundscapes dark, and this record has that in spades. As close as you’ll get to an ambient BOC record. They haven’t lost any skill when it comes to weaving unexpected and beautiful melodies. Neither have they lost the knack for making me feel like I’m hearing something from my childhood that I’d forgotten until now. And it’s a release like this that renews my faith in why I buy vinyl. Even after listening to the MP3s for a week, non-stop, to the exclusion of several other worthy things, I received my record from Bleep. I put it on as I sorted books and stuff. One side, second side, third, fourth and then over again. By the end I felt like I’d been smoking something magical. All the little touches jumped out, in full-color. All the creepy background voices were now actually voices instead of muddled sounds. I wish they’d been making a record a year like this since Campfire, but they didn’t and so this is what we have and it was worth the wait.
I think of a fat, sweaty, cigar-smoking label guy in a suit blurting out “I don’t hear a single!” It took me a while to figure out what was different about this record for me than previous Qotsa. And this sounds terrible, but bear with me: Nothing stands out. The highs and lows of Lullabies or Songs for the Deaf are evened out. But it makes for a record I can listen to all the way through over and then over again. I don’t just scan through to the tracks I prefer, I listen all the way through because the flavor of each track is kind of elusive. I’ve been listening to the thing for weeks now and my favorites keep changing. It does feel like some of the collabs went wrong or just didn’t work as expected. The Elton John contribution seems incidental. Lanegan, Reznor and Grohl are impossible to discern anywhere. But oh well. The vinyl comes in three flavors, all 45 rpm; a regular red cover, a deluxe version with a red cover and the one that’s shaping up to be the rarer; blue cover, allegedly made in a run of 10,000 copies and already sold out. And the vinyl does make a difference in the listening.
I must confess to a growing weakness for Easy Listening lately. (I’m stretching that genre-name a bit for what I want to write about, but it’s the schmaltzy, big or small band, standards and such. Days of Wine and Roses. Moon River done a thousand different ways. The Three Suns, Mancini, that sort of thing).
Why in the name of God, You probably ask. Continue reading
RED SOVINE ‘Teddy Bear’
RCA 1976 cat# LSA3286
Ah, Red Sovine. Some of you may know this corn-poned, beer and hardluck spattered gentleman from Tom Waits cover of ‘Big Joe and Phantom 309′ on Nighthawks at the Diner. Even with that pedigree I can’t get my girlfriend to listen to this. Well, Red specialized in those sad, country story songs. You know, Little Timmy’s legs is broke and Daddy left him and Momma with nuthin’ and it’s Christmas and all Timmy wants for Christmas is a ride in a big rig. These are not so much sung as they are spoken, with Red’s voice breaking into a maudlin quaver at several key points. Yes, it’s hilarious. Red himself has an interesting story. He was a true Nashville country stalwart, just muling away out there from honky-tonk to honky-tonk, and though this record actually hit #1 on the US Country chart in 1976, he never seemed to find fame. Instead his story ended with him having a heart attack while driving his van in Nashville. The combination of heart failure and injuries proved too much, so on April 4, 1980, Red threw it into low for the last time and rolled his rig up into that great truck-stop in the sky.
There are other records with better known Sovine songs, but the cover on this one just puts it over the top. Still, you can’t beat titles like ‘Does Steppin’ Out Mean Daddy Took a Walk?’. Getting this record was a bit of a project. It’s funny. I’m three hours from Nashville, but I had to buy this from a guy in England.
Daniel Lopatin has been causing a buzz among those of us who are wont to buzz about underground ambient music. The talk is justified. OPN is a perfect example of an artist finding their sensibilities in sound, equipment and delivery then running with it. I get the impression that Lopatin is making the kinds of records he wants to hear. Which is really how anyone should make music. Using vintage synths and sampling banal 80′s media and tropes, OPN layers it all together in up to date frameworks of melody, inserting segues at perfect spots. At no point does the work get bogged down in any one sound. At no time does it get attached to a specific space. It goes there, gives time for you to feel it, then moves on. To something just as interesting and just as heartfelt. Replica is where you start. Then move back and start fighting for the amazing ‘Zones Without People’. Good stuff. I’m still hunting for a reasonable copy of ‘Betrayed In The Octagon’ myself. I was heartened to see OPN on the great label Mexican Summer. And Hey Dan, if you’re reading this, please put ‘Memory Vague’ out on vinyl. www.mexicansummer.com.
Retro works best when it just kind of happens. One of my favorite recent discoveries, the only downer was learning that the early singles and a 10″ had already progressed into collector-price territory. Damn you, people like me. Tame Impala was one of those projects I knew I would like as soon as I heard them. Heavy but melodic and spacy, vocals like John Lennon rocking out. It’s hard to categorise this Australian band and there’s no real scene that I can see to connect them to. There’s a good dose of Psych, with tight musicianship, particularly the drums and vocals. So much about how this works is unexpected, but settling in with Innerspeaker is at once comfortable and refreshing. There is a US version of the 2xLP recorded at 33rpm but the original Australian is recorded at 45 rpm. Nice gatefold package.
The video for Monte Gargano got me. There’s some really good metal out there now, but you aren’t going to hear it unless you are digging. And I mean digging. Want to know why you can’t get into the current metal that’s everywhere right now? Because it’s made for 14 year olds who listen to it while they play Halo and eat the pizza rolls Mom just heated up for them. So you’re doing fine. I didn’t notice it until someone actually mentioned that it sounded like Qotsa – probably because it didn’t really sound like them to me. There’s not really a trace of that on the 13 minute track ‘Majestic’, which just completely rocks. You know how there’s a great song on a record, but it only lasts three minutes and you wish there was some way it went longer without getting boring? This is it. Maybe the only time a song this long can keep the same high energy level throughout. This record is kind of hard to get. The only place I’ve found it in the States is the ever-reliable people at All That Is Heavy. There aren’t even copies on Ebay.